‘I can’t pay rent’: Arkansans concerned over evictions during COVID-19 crisis

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — On Friday, people protested in front of the Governor’s Mansion asking state leaders to cancel rent and not have evictions during this COVID-19 crisis. 

While some were at the event supporting more renters’ rights, others were on the verge of losing their home.

“Look I can’t pay rent. So I have no idea what I’m going to do,” said Riley Pennington.

During a normal time, there are few state laws that help renters, but Arkansas has very few rights for people paying rent and most laws favor landlords.

Now, people are facing a unique challenge of being laid off during the COVID-19 crisis and not being able to afford rent. 

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“It’s going to put somebody in debt. Somebody’s going to end up on the street and I really I can’t be that person,” Pennington said.

Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed concerns at Friday’s press conference. 

“If you can’t pay your rent because of losing your job, lack of income, or because of COVID-19 there is help for you,” he said.

He added that’s why the Arkansas Community Foundation received pandemic relief grants, so businesses and individuals struggling could get help.

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There is also federal help. 

Through the CARES Act, people who live in federally-funded housing cannot have an eviction filed against them between March and July. 

However, those who do not fall under that are not protected and can be evicted. 

Kendall Lewellen, an attorney with the Center for Arkansas Legal Services recommends to pay your rent, but there are options if you need assistance.

“Please pay your rent, but if you are served with some legal papers I wouldn’t just conclude there is no hope for you,” Lewellen said. “I would reach out for help.”

If you need legal advice about renters’ rights or evictions, you can reach out the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.

They are open Monday through Friday and take claims from 9 AM-11 AM and 1 PM-3 PM. You can call them at 1-800-950-5817.

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