On June 15, 2021 – the very day that tenant protections in Chapter 257 were set to end – the state legislature voted to extend them. The following day, Governor Baker signed the legislation into law. The new law, Chapter 20 of the Acts of 2021, continues the Chapter 257 requirement that courts pause non-payment eviction cases when tenants have pending applications for rental assistance. This protection, extended until April 2022, will ensure that courts do not issue eviction orders while tenants are seeking rental assistance.
Last week, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum to expand access to legal representation and the courts.
“Timely and affordable access to the legal system can make all the difference in a person’s life—including by keeping an individual out of poverty, keeping an individual in his or her home, helping an unaccompanied child seek asylum, helping someone fight a consumer scam, or ensuring that an individual charged with a crime can mount a strong defense and receive a fair trial,” the White House said in a statement.
Due to the move to Zoom court proceedings during the pandemic, lack of internet access or internet-connected devices has prevented access to justice for countless low-income people across the Commonwealth. Many people are unable to log into court hearings, struggle to present evidence to support their case, or are unable to participate at all in the legal process.
Rosa, a single mother of three, worked as a Patient Care Assistant on a COVID unit. Early in the pandemic, Rosa was furloughed and began to fall behind on her rent. When she returned to work, Rosa, who was then pregnant with her third child, developed pregnancy complications and was forced to take an early, unpaid maternity leave.
Rosa gave birth to her third child in September 2020 and resumed work shortly after. Rosa tried to keep up with her rent payments as best as she could, and made partial payments anytime she received extra income.