Letter to the Mayor of Boise in Support of An Emergency Moratorium on Evictions
Dear Mayor McLean:

We, the undersigned, on behalf of our Boise communities and neighborhoods, request that you exercise your constitutional and statutory authority to issue immediate emergency orders instituting a moratorium on evictions within the City of Boise for the duration of the City’s declared state of emergency.

As active members of the Boise community, we have direct contact with Boise City residents and neighbors whose housing security has become dramatically more precarious than it was even two weeks ago. The preservation of public health, safety, and welfare requires immediate action by the City in response to foreseeable, imminent, or present public health emergencies.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) a global pandemic, which is particularly severe in high-risk populations such as people with underlying medical conditions and the elderly. On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States issued an emergency declaration for the country in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases within the U.S. On March 13, 2020, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a declaration of emergency for the State of Idaho in response to concerns that cases of COVID-19 are imminent in Idaho.

You declared a state of emergency in Boise on March 16, 2020, in response to the risk and spread of COVID-19. Shortly thereafter, on March 17, 2020, you and the City Council of the City of Boise enacted an Emergency Powers Ordinance, Title 1, Chapter 15, Boise City Code. As of March 17, 2020, a third case of coronavirus was reported in Ada County, according to Central District Health, bringing the total to nine cases statewide. All school districts in the City of Boise have closed all K-12 schools from Monday March 16, 2020, to Friday March 27, 2020, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and are continuing to develop options in the event the school closure lasts beyond March 27th.

Local, state and federal governments, including your office, are encouraging people to stay home, if possible, to stop the spread of the virus. On March 16, 2020, President Donald Trump advised people to avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more, to stop discretionary travel and to stay out of restaurants and bars. On March 18, 2020, President Donald Trump announced the United States Housing and Urban Development Department will suspend foreclosures and evictions through April as a growing number of Americans face losing jobs and missing rent and mortgage payments.

The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on the local economy, impacting the retail, restaurant and other industries, resulting in layoffs and reduced work hours for a significant percentage of this Boise workforce and loss of income for small businesses. Layoffs and substantially reduced work hours will lead to widespread economic hardship that will disproportionately impact low- and moderate- income workers, resulting in lost
wages and the inability to pay for basic household expenses, including rent and utilities. Too many Boise residents are being asked to choose between going to work to make rent, or staying home to protect their and all Boiseans’ health. Many Boise workers in the service industry, the arts, hospitality, and many other industries do not even have a choice—they are quickly having their hours cut or losing their jobs outright. This means that all of those who we previously relied on as the backbone of our economy will have no means of affording rent, health care, childcare, education, and many other life necessities. According to economic findings from Prosperity Now, at least 40% of Americans were a single paycheck away from poverty in 2019. And with so many unable to pay their rent or their mortgage, if action is not taken, we will soon see the catastrophic effect that the crisis will have on the nation’s and Boise’s economic well-being.

This impending, unprecedented economic hardship will undoubtedly have significant health implications. For many Boise residents—including those laid off or forced to curtail work under the direction of national, state, and local authorities and/or their personal health care providers—rent comes due on April 1, 2020, and on the first day of every month thereafter.

Evictions and termination of utilities result in a loss of housing and create housing instability, potentially increasing the number of people experiencing homelessness and creating a heightened risk of disease transmission within Boise City. Although the City invests in eviction and homelessness prevention programs for its own properties, these resources are not sufficient to address the housing stability needs of all the dislocated workers and families during this unprecedented public health epidemic.

Cities and states across the nation are now considering or have implemented eviction and utility termination prevention to provide housing stability to dislocated workers and their families. We ask you to do the same now.

Article XII, Section 2 of the Idaho State Constitution grants cities like the City of Boise broad police powers to “make and enforce, within its limits, all such local police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws.”

Title 50, Chapter 6, Sec. 50-606 of the Idaho Code grants mayors broad police powers whereby “The mayor shall have such jurisdiction as may be vested in him [or her] by ordinance over all places within five (5) miles of the corporate limits of the city, for the enforcement of any health or quarantine ordinance and regulation thereof.”

The COVID-19 public health emergency requires the issuance of an emergency order that is specifically aimed at a moratorium on residential evictions and utility terminations during the public health emergency in order to keep adults and children housed and protect the public safety, health and welfare. A temporary moratorium on residential evictions during the COVID-19 outbreak will protect the public health, safety, and welfare by reducing the number of individuals and families entering into homelessness during this epidemic, which means lowering the number of people developing or spreading the disease who thereby would increase the burden on local medical facilities and health care workers.

Thank you, on behalf of the undersigned:
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