Political fight over redistricting delays eviction, utility cutoff protections in budget

Political fight over redistricting delays eviction, utility cutoff protections in budget
A sheriff's deputy in Newport News hands eviction paperwork to Cecelia Woodard, who says she's been unable to find work during the pandemic and is five months behind on her rent. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

NEWPORT NEWS — Cecelia Woodard gave a nervous glance down the road every time she heard a car approach.

It was Tuesday morning and the sheriff was scheduled to arrive to evict her from the apartment she shares with her 64-year-old mother, who had left a few minutes earlier with a plan to donate plasma in hopes of scraping together money for a hotel room.

Woodard had only learned about the national eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control a few days earlier from Delaware’s unemployment office, which she had called in a desperate attempt to get information about the status of her unemployment claim after being unable to get through to anyone in Virginia. It didn’t help, she said: Her landlord ignored the declaration she sent that was supposed to keep her in her home.

And she had never heard that the state launched a rent relief program designed to help people just like her avoid homelessness by covering back rent accrued during the coronavirus pandemic.

All she knew was that she couldn’t find a job, couldn’t pay rent and was about to move into a Nissan sedan with her mom and as many of their possessions as they could fit.

“When they come to lock the doors, I still don’t have any way to pay,” she said, her voice softening. “So I guess we’ll be living outside.”

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