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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

State and local leaders in Colorado are barreling ahead on eviction defense protections — actions advocates say are still desperately needed to keep tenants housed and landlords in business as the pandemic drags on.

Why it matters: 31.5% of Colorado adults live in households that are behind on payments and where eviction or foreclosure in the next two months is likely, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Driving the news: A Denver City Council committee advanced a measure Wednesday that would give free legal counsel for evictions to low-income renters. The full body will vote on the proposal in the coming weeks.

  • And a bill that would prevent landlords from raising rent more than once a year and require 21 days' notice before price hikes is advancing at the statehouse.

The big picture: The federal eviction moratorium, coupled with billions in federal rental assistance, has had a slow, but positive impact on improving eviction levels, experts say — and these laws could help curb displacement even more.

  • But the moratorium, set to end June 30, was recently struck down by a federal judge on grounds that the CDC overstepped its bounds.
  • The U.S. Justice Department intends to appeal the ruling.
Data: Colorado Department of Local Affairs; Chart: Alayna Alvarez/Axios

A compounding problem: Money is trickling out the door to those in need, in large part because of a backlog of applications for the state’s pandemic rental assistance programs.

What they’re saying: The "sheer volume of requests we have received compared to the staffing we had to handle them was severely overwhelming," Colorado Department of Local Affairs spokesperson Brett McPherson told Axios.

  • The agency has been working with a customer service partner to get through the pileup. As of next week, DOLA expects a "two-week turnaround time between when an application is submitted to when it is reviewed," he said.

The bottom line: "If you end the moratorium — because it takes so long to get access to rental assistance — you will see a lot of landlords evicting because they're not confident the money's going to arrive," Zach Neumann, head of the Colorado-based COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, told Axios.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the federal eviction moratorium ends June 30.

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Go deeper

May 12, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado turns to hotels in push to address homelessness

People experiencing homeless near Samaritan House and the Denver Rescue Mission in downtown Denver. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado leaders see underutilized hotels as part of the next solution to housing the homeless, and federal and state lawmakers may provide the money to make it happen.

Why it matters: Prompted by the pandemic, this is Denver's new approach to moving people experiencing homelessness off the street and into a more stable environment.

  • Advocates say it could be a more long-term solution for the estimated 6,104 unhoused Coloradans in the metro area, compared with the city’s sanctioned homeless encampments, which have been unwelcome by some residents and even sparked a lawsuit by a group of neighbors in Park Hill.

New $3.2 billion internet discount program opens for consumers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Consumers in low-income households can sign up for $50 off their internet service as part of a new federal program starting Wednesday.

Why it matters: The Emergency Broadband Benefit program is meant to help families afford high-speed internet connections needed for school and work.

Updated May 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

The states ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits early

Protesters demand senators support the continuation of unemployment benefits on July 16, 2020 in Miami Springs, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than a dozen Republican-led states have announced they are terminating their involvement in federal pandemic-related unemployment programs early.

Driving the news: Many of the states' governors cited worker shortages. But some experts say it's the job climate, including pandemic-era factors, and not unemployment benefits that is determining when and how people return to work.