“I just want to start off this training by saying that this is not the world that I want,” said Jason Legg. “The rules and laws I’m going to talk about are how the world is right now.”
Legg’s tone was a somber one. His words pragmatic. Legg’s acknowledgement that he does not think the system is treating his audience fairly does not change the situation they find themselves in.
On August 6, Legg, a Denver tenant lawyer and activist, spoke through Zoom at an Eviction Defense Training organized by 9to5 Colorado, the state’s chapter of a national organization dedicated to protecting the rights and publicizing issues facing working women and families. These trainings aim to help workers navigate the complicated world of eviction and paid-leave rights.
During the training he explained how the eviction process works and provided resources in both Spanish and English. Legg spoke English while a translator on another audio channel spoke in Spanish.
The trainings happen monthly and are meant to be a tool for those facing eviction. Due to coronavirus pandemic Colorado housing experts and activists are bracing for a surge of evictions, according to The Colorado Sun.
Cesiah Guadarrama Trejo, Senior Housing Organizer for 9to5 Colorado, hopes that their trainings will make the process less intimidating.
“Some of our members were in crisis before the coronavirus hit,” Guadarrama Trejo said. “They were paying more than half of their income on rent and barely making it. Now after the pandemic we are going to see a massive wave of people who have probably never been through this process. So our goal is really to educate folks and let them know about the legal process, to give them guidance every step of the way.”
Guadarrama Trejo explained that some of 9to5 Colorado’s members are left behind by federal assistance programs or traditional rental assistance programs because of their immigration status. When the pandemic caused job losses across the state, vulnerable populations were put in an even more precarious situation.
“Across Colorado we’ve seen that for many of our folks, missing one or two paychecks is disastrous,” Guadarrama Trejo said.
Since the 2019 Colorado legislative session, 9to5 Colorado has advocated for a bill that would prevent future late fees on rent and cancel existing ones. The bill failed earlier this year.
“If this pandemic, when it’s safest for people to stay home and isolate themselves, does not convince our elected officials and people in power that there needs to be a shift in housing policies and housing narratives in our state, I don’t know what will,” Guadarrama Trejo said.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, delayed evictions for a spell earlier this summer, but the delay has since expired.
On Sept. 4 the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a nation-wide eviction moratorium that will last until the end of the year. The order states that tenants must still pay rent, but can be exempt from eviction if they meet a series of requirements (e.g., they lost income, have to pay medical bills, or would become homeless if evicted).
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Along with the trainings and the resources shared over Zoom, 9to5 Colorado’s Facebook page also contains information and answers about eviction and other issues.
9to5 Colorado has shared eviction counts in Colorado — seven in the past week, despite the moratorium — as well as fact sheets about the CDC order available in six languages and articles explaining the connection between housing justice and racial justice.
“Evictions disproportionately affect people of color, particularly women of color,” Guadarrama Trejo explained.
9to5 Colorado is also hosting trainings about paid leave rights. The trainings occur in the shadow of Ballot Proposition 118, a mandate that Colorado will vote on this November.
Proposition 118 orders employers provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, with an additional four weeks in cases of complications. You can read the proposition in full here.
Ashley Panelli, Senior Paid Leave Organizer at 9to5 Colorado, in a comment to The Aspen Times, gave her reasoning for supporting the ballot measure.
“People shouldn’t have to make an impossible choice between their job, their health and their loved ones,” Panelli said. “Right now 87 percent of workers in Colorado do not have access to a benefit like this.”
According to Colorado Public Radio, opposition of Proposition 118 is led by the group Not Now Colorado. A major argument against the measure is that it puts too much of a burden on businesses, something to avoid during this recession.
On Sept. 29, 9to5 Colorado will host an event centered around mobile home tenant rights. The next eviction defense training is Oct. 1.