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DeLauro sponsors federal bill to build on existing legal aid for families facing eviction

U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03)
Molly Ingram
U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03)

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) joined representatives from New Haven Legal Assistance (LAA) on Friday to advocate for a federal Eviction Prevention Act. The act builds on existing legislation in Connecticut that provides families in housing court with legal representation.

DeLauro’s office said Connecticut’s current right-to-counsel program is one of the few in the nation. Alexis Smith, the executive director of New Haven Legal Assistance, praised the program’s aid to families.

“Before Connecticut’s Housing Right-to-Counsel Program, over 80 percent of tenants went to housing court without the benefit of a lawyer,” Smith said. “Because of this program, LAA was able to add more housing lawyers to help our clients assert the rights they are entitled to."

They also pushed the passage of the new federal legislation.

DeLauro said eviction increases the risk of homelessness, and can throw entire families’ lives into disrepair.

“At 9 years old, on a Friday night, I came home to my house with my mom and dad, we found all of our belongings on the street,” DeLauro said.

“We had been evicted. Not because my mom and dad weren't working as hard as they could, but because of the financial challenges we faced. Eviction turned our world upside down.”

DeLauro’s office said the law would provide attorneys nationwide to represent tenants who live 125% below the poverty level for eviction proceedings.

Additionally, the act would authorize a National Database of Evictions available at the federal level to better track eviction cases.

The bill is co-sponsored by Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey.

Eda Uzunlar is WSHU's Poynter Fellow for Media and Journalism.