CT extends protections for renters, but it’s too late for some to benefit

Thousands of renters across Connecticut will avoid eviction – for now – after state lawmakers extended emergency protections that were set to end Friday. But for thousands more tenants, it’s already too late.
The extension affects tenants who already applied for assistance through the UniteCT program. The program pays landlords directly. Renters still waiting for a decision can stay in their homes, under the extension Gov. Ned Lamont signed on Thursday. It runs until June 30.
"It means that your landlord cannot go forward to conclude an eviction case in court," says Erin Kemple, executive director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.
For renters who didn’t apply, it’s already too late. UniteCT stopped taking new applications on Feb. 15, as $400 million in federal COVID relief funding dried up. Close to 20,000 applications were closed because either the tenant or landlord didn’t fill out all the paperwork. Critics said the process was confusing and cumbersome.
That leaves renters like Luis Baeza, of Bridgeport, fending for themselves as they face eviction.
"I have two weeks -- at the end of the month,” says Baeza.
Across Connecticut, eviction cases are skyrocketing. Baeza’s pastor says his story is all too common.
"What we've seen is, countless people moving to this area during the pandemic,” says the Rev. Herron Gaston of Summerfield United Methodist Church. “And so, it's made it entirely difficult for someone like Luis to be able to pay that kind of rent."

Baeza lives with arthritis and serious burns on his face, making it even harder to work and find a new place to live.

"To be totally honest with you, I don't think I'll make it in the street if I had to become homeless in the street,” says Baeza.