Richmond council considers suspending rents, mortgages during COVID-19 lockdown

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Richmond City Hall

By Kathy Chouteau

Richmond City Council is proposing an emergency order that would suspend all rents and mortgages in Richmond for the duration of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place.

The agenda item also proposes establishing a service to assist small businesses and landlords during the same timeframe.

“The shelter-in-place that was ordered stopped many businesses from functioning and prevented much of the population from going to work and earning a wage,” stated City Councilmembers Eduardo Martinez and Melvin Willis in the agenda item. “Although people are stopped from working they still are expected to pay for their food, medicine, gasoline, car payments and rent or mortgages.”

The councilmembers added that this protection of renters is needed to make the shelter-in-place effective and that the amount of assistance from the federal government and state unemployment is “too little too late” for working people to cover the aforementioned costs.

The meeting agenda item specifies that the emergency order should encompass all residential and small business rents, as well as all mortgage payments of homeowners, small landlords and small businesses.

It also proposes the establishment of an office to assist Richmond small businesses and landlords in filing for federal and state assistance, including the Cares Act. The councilmembers estimate the office will require a minimum of two full time staff members, with library personnel being possible candidates for the roles.

Per the councilmembers regarding the need for this service, “there is assistance available to small businesses which includes landlords. The red tape for this is daunting to people less familiar with government procedures and language.”

They added that “it is crucial that we immediately set up an office to assist our small business and small landlords.”

Previously, Richmond ordered a moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order.

The April 21 Richmond City Council meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. (public comment is at 5 p.m.). Click here to view the full agenda, as well as how to watch the meeting remotely.