PHOENIX - A moratorium on residential evictions in Arizona has now been extended until October 31, according to Governor Doug Ducey.
Gov. Ducey made the announcement during a news conference on the afternoon of July 16. The 120-day moratorium was due to end July 25. It was supposed to ensure people wouldn’t lose their homes if they got COVID-19 or lost their jobs during pandemic restrictions. But advocates argued it’s too early to end the ban because most of the government money set aside to help pay rents and mortgages still hasn’t been doled out.
"To qualify, eligible renters will need to notify their landlord or property owner of a hardship of COVID-19 in writing and request a payment plan. After August 21, renters will need to provide their landlord or property owner a copy of their completed pending application for rental assistance through a state, city, county or nonprofit program," read a portion of a statement from the Governor's Office.
In addition, officials with the Governor's Office announced that $650,000 has been allocated to Community Action Agencies for additional staff to process rental assistance for those in need, and that state and local governments have allocated more than $80 million to assist renters and prevent homelessness.
Property manager speaks out
Kim Fearon with Ashford Management Services says the extension could be good news in the short term.
“I talked to other property managers and their tenants who applied for assistance, haven’t been awarded either,” said Fearon.
For Fearon, however, it wont mean much if the state can’t get the renter's assistance program straightened out.
"I understand why they’re doing it, and it’s a great protection for tenants, but to go along with that, they’re not dispersing the funds that were supposed to help the tenants and assist owners in getting their rents, in which owners are stressed out," said Fearon.
The state's $5 million renter's assistance program, set up in March, has given money out at a snail's pace with just over $1.1 million given out to landlords so far. When asked whether or not the program is a failure, Gov. Ducey disagreed during the news conference.
"The program is not a failure," said Gov. Ducey. "I think you may have seen earlier in the presentation. we’ve had more than $5.4 billion of federal funds go out. That’s $840 a week to people, so if you’re receiving $840 a week, which we’re told for many that were displaced is more money than they were receiving before, their rents are up to date."
Gov. Ducey: Positive tests down
During the news conference, Gov. Ducey said there is a decline in the percentage of positive cases in Arizona, and there's evidence of fewer new cases of COVID-19.
In addition, Gov. Ducey said the average number of people who became infected by an infectious person has dropped before the government's goal of 1.0.
The state department of health reported 3,259 additional cases of COVID-19 and 58 new reported deaths on July 16, bringing Arizona's total to 134,613 cases and 2,492 deaths.
While some wonder if this could be a sign of a flattening of the curve, experts say it’s too soon to tell.
In total, Arizona has seen more than 134,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,492 related deaths. However, the number of cases could be far higher because many people have not been tested, and some can be infected without feeling sick.
COVID-19 continues to spread in Arizona
The news conference was held a week after Gov. Ducey announced that restaurants would limit their capacity to 50%. The restriction was implemented after a record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases that made the state a hotspot for the virus in the United States.
Ducey also declined to shut down indoor dining entirely or issue a statewide mandate on masks, which Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and other officials have urged.
The state Department of Health Services said 671 COVID-19 patients were on ventilators and 936 were in intensive care as of July 12. Hospitals were hovering around 90% capacity as the state ranks first in the U.S. for new per capita cases over the past two weeks.
According to an online interactive map created by experts at Georgia Tech, an event in Maricopa County with just 10 people on July 15 showed a 57% chance of encountering someone who was infected with COVID-19. The estimated risk level at an event in the county with 100 people exceeded 99%.
This has concerned many Arizona teachers as the 2020-2021 school year is set to begin in August, with many saying that the state's school opening date of Aug. 17 is too early.
The "motor marches" came on the same day Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman participated in a conference call with Democrats denouncing the president’s calls to reopen schools or face funding cuts.
Two new federal testing sites are set to open July 17 in south Phoenix and in the West Valley to serve areas of the Phoenix community that have been undertested to have a more accurate assessment of the virus's spread.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.
Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.
To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.
And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.