Funding part of Amazon’s $3 million donation to increase staff and resources at Virginia Poverty Law Center and three additional legal service providers across the Washington, D.C. metro region to assist with surge of tenants facing eviction issues as moratorium ends
RICHMOND, VA — The Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) has received a $750,000 donation from Amazon to support the surge of families and individuals facing evictions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the enhanced protections from eviction in Virginia come to an end. The funding will be used to expand the critical work of VPLC’s Eviction Legal Helpline, allowing the organization to hire an additional bilingual attorney to handle the increased numbers of Virginians facing eviction and conduct outreach and education in Virginia’s vulnerable mobile home park communities.
The donation is part of Amazon’s $3 million donation to four different organizations across the Washington, D.C. metro area including VPLC as well as Legal Services of Northern Virginia, Bread for the City’s Legal Clinic, and Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, all supporting families facing evictions due to challenges caused by COVID-19.
VPLC launched its Eviction Legal Helpline in August 2018 in response to data from the Eviction Lab showing that five of the top ten large U.S. cities with the highest eviction rates, and three of the top five mid-sized U.S. cities with the highest eviction rates, are in Virginia. Its mission is to put a dent in the state’s eviction crisis, which sees more than 160,000 eviction cases filed in court each year while the vast majority of tenants receive no legal advice or representation.
The helpline is staffed by a bilingual (Spanish/English) attorney, a bilingual (Spanish/English) paralegal, and by attorney and non-attorney volunteers who provide information, referrals, and legal advice to tenants facing eviction throughout Virginia. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of tenants assisted by the helpline each month has more than tripled.
With funding from Amazon, VPLC will be able to hire an additional bilingual attorney to work on the helpline as the number of tenants facing eviction in Virginia will inevitably increase when rental assistance funds run out and eviction protections put into place for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency expire. With this additional attorney, VPLC will expand its eviction prevention work by conducting on-site outreach and education to residents of mobile home parks in Virginia, many of whom are native Spanish speakers. Most of these residents own their homes — but not the land they sit on — and are at risk for both eviction from the mobile home parks and losing their home and only asset. The new attorney hired will both help these residents avoid eviction and advise them on how to collectively purchase the parks they live in by taking advantage of new laws passed in Virginia.
“Across Virginia and the nation, residential tenants are understandably confused about the constantly changing eviction protections put in place during this pandemic and afraid of ending up homeless and vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Christie Marra, Director of Housing Advocacy at VPLC. “Amazon’s generous donation enables us to expand our Eviction Legal Helpline so that more Virginia tenants can get free legal advice and referrals to attorneys and rental assistance during this difficult time.”
“Thanks to this support from Amazon, we will be able to continue helping Virginians in critical need of legal advice about their rights as tenants facing eviction,” said Jay Speer, Executive Director of VPLC. “This free legal advice service is crucial during the ongoing eviction crisis.”
“Families are facing innumerable challenges related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Amazon continues to work with our HQ2 community to understand the pressing issues facing our neighbors,” said Alice Shobe, Director, Amazon in the Community. “Tenant rights are a particularly complicated issue right now and this latest $3 million donation to these four agencies will quickly provide support to individuals and families who immediately need help.”
Since 1978, VPLC has been dedicated to breaking down the systemic barriers that keep low-income Virginians in the cycle of poverty through advocacy, education, and litigation. This year, VPLC bolstered its effort to serve low-income Virginians throughout the Commonwealth as the population is disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with this donation, Amazon announced additional community donations throughout Northern Virginia and beyond today as part of its commitment to the region on the 2-year anniversary of selecting Arlington, VA as its HQ2.