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City Of Dallas Launches Legal Aid Program For Evictions

Virus Outbreak Texas
LM Otero
AP News
Wearing a face mask to prevent to spread of COVID-19, volunteer Scot Wingo places food atop a car to minimize face-to-face contact during a North Texas Food Bank drive-thru event Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Dallas.

Housing experts expect a wave of evictions when a national moratorium expires at the end of December. To get ahead of the surge, the City of Dallas is piloting a legal assistance program with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas.

“We know that legal representation can make a significant difference in the likelihood that a person who is in the situation might be able to assert their rights, as well as understand their responsibilities,” said Liz Cedillo-Pereira, chief of equity and inclusion with the City of Dallas.

The application period opens Monday for city residents adversely affected by COVID-19. In addition to possible legal representation, the program includes education and training.

In a press release, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas Chief Executive Officer Maria Thomas-Jones said the goal is “keeping families housed and educating tenants and landlords on their rights and responsibilities.”

Tenants can apply for legal assistance with eviction cases by calling Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas at 1-888-529-5277 or visiting its website.

The program isn’t open to anyone with a household member who earns more than 200% of the federal poverty line. But even if people think they won’t qualify, Cedillo-Pereira said people shouldn’t be shy in reaching out.

“Even if there’s ineligibility, we would appreciate the opportunity to try to refer people to different resources that are out there,” she said.

The city has a list of COVID-19 resources here.

To pay for the legal aid program, the city is using $50,000 of the money it received from the federal government as part of the CARES Act relief legislation passed earlier this year.

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.