Housing advocates say tenants across Virginia are struggling to make rent amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a moratorium on evictions due to nonpayment of rent through Dec. 31. Virginia lawmakers added another layer of eviction protections during their recent 12-week special session.

One measure forces landlords to offer tenants payment plans if they’re behind on rent. A tenant would then have time to make up the rent before a landlord can pursue an eviction.

Del. Marcia Price, who represents parts of Hampton and Newport News, helped introduce some of the new eviction protections.

She joined WHRV’s Sam Turken to discuss Virginia’s response to housing insecurity during the pandemic.

Listen to their conversation, and find a full transcript below:

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Sam Turken: Hi Delegate Price. Thanks so much for coming on.

Delegate Marcia Price: Hi there. Thank you for having me.

ST: Start off by telling us about some of the housing bills that made it through the recent special session.

MP: One is that we clarified the language that tenants have 60 days to ask for before an eviction if their eviction is due to nonpayment because of impact on their income due to COVID. And so that's like in court 60 days-stay before they get evicted. Another thing that we did was create the need for payment plans prior to an eviction. If you're not able to pay your rent, you have 14 days to talk with the landlord. You all agree to a payment plan. The payment plan has to be equal installments. And so it just gives people time to split up the remainder that they have over a period of time because they're still going to have to pay the rent that was due for the next month.

ST: How will you spread awareness to tenants and landlords about some of these new protections?

MP: Yeah, this is what's been the challenge. If they don't have legal representation and they don't know about these things, there's no one that's there that says, 'Oh, wait, you have 60 days' or, you know, to know their rights. And so we're working with localities to try and make sure that we have just a general awareness campaign. The other thing that I think we could help utilize the courts — and so if there's communication that we could have through the office of the executive secretary that could just send the information down to the courts so they would know. But it is really just a word of mouth effort right now. And we need something way bigger than that.

ST: The federal government has an eviction moratorium until the end of the year. Why was it so important for Virginia to pass this legislation?

MP: There have been some executive orders that were issued down this year that just didn't hold the teeth that the press conference would have led you to believe. And we weren't sure in such short notice. Was this one of those? There was just so much confusion about what it would do. So it comes down to tenants who make less than $99,000 and you have to sign this form. And it's great to have in place. But should someone miss the box or miss something that they have to do for the federal level, we wanted to have something in place just to make sure that everyone in Virginia was at least protected.

ST: Virginia has a rent and mortgage relief program that's supposed to help tenants pay missed rent. The state has allocated $62 million in funding to help pay for it. But there've been reports that tenants are having a hard time navigating the program and getting assistance after they apply. What are your thoughts on the program?

MP: So in special session in the budget language, we were able to fix some of the administrative hurdles. And so now a landlord can apply for it, which that seems to be going much quicker. So what we're trying to do is get that money in the hands of the landlord so both the landlord can pay their mortgage because not everyone can just go without. And we understand that. But that also that the tenant can stay home. The other thing that we were noticing was instead of waiting for the money to come, there was some evictions, proceedings that were being started while they were waiting for rent relief. And so we have made provisions that 45 days has to be given between the time you apply before any evictions proceedings can happen.

ST: That was Delegate Marcia Price. She represents Virginia's 95th District, which includes parts of Newport News and Hampton. Thanks for joining us.

MP: Thank you for having me.