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Nonprofit seeks to help as evictions climb in Idaho

Jesse Tree is a local group working to help residents in the Treasure Valley and beyond avoid homelessness.

BOISE, Idaho — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grind on in Idaho, evictions are climbing as more and more people find themselves behind on rent.

Twenty eviction hearings are scheduled across the Treasure Valley this week: 13 in Ada County and seven in Canyon County.

The nonprofit Jesse Tree is working to keep those on the brink of eviction out of homelessness and provide resources to families who aren't sure where to turn.

“Jesse Tree has been around for 20 years providing rental assistance and support to low-income tenants who can’t pay their rent, essentially to keep them from being evicted and becoming homeless," said Ali Rabe, Jesse Tree's executive director.

RELATED: $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress, sent to President Trump

The Center for Disease Control issued a federal eviction moratorium in September as COVID-19 cases continued to spike. The action put a hold on eviction for renters who make less than $99,000 a year, and have made their best effort to make their payments.

According to Rabe, renters are required to sign a self-declaration form and present that document at their eviction hearings. But many vulnerable residents simply did not know about the form, or weren't sure how to fill it out, she said.

"It is a very confusing document," Rabe said. "The criteria are pretty confusing and easy to meet, but difficult to prove. There’s been no enforcement guidance across the country, so every judge and every landlord is treating the moratorium differently.”

RELATED: Evictions hearings surge in Idaho after CARES Act expires

She noted that a total of 298 eviction hearings have been scheduled in the Treasure Valley since September, falling nearly every day of the week - even on Christmas Eve this year.

Rabe argued that more needs to be done to help vulnerable renters, and that starts with the $900 billion relief bill passed by Congress Monday night. The bill, which provides financial relief for businesses, $25 billion in rental assistance, and a $600 one-time payment to those making under $75,000 per year, is now headed to the desk of President Donald Trump.

RELATED: Experts weigh in on what's next for Idaho's housing market

"We hope that it trickles down to low-income renters – particularly really vulnerable renters that may not know how to access that funding,” Rabe said.

If you have an upcoming eviction court date, Jesse Tree can help connect you to a social worker. For more information, visit their website here.

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