Updates from Alachua County Labor Coalition

by Sheila Payne, Alachua County Labor Coalition Board Member

The Alachua County Labor Coalition is shaking off the Covid blahs and continuing our work on housing and legal system transformation advocacy. 

We just elected a whole new slate of enthusiastic Executive Board members at our in-person and virtual membership meeting on Feb. 15. We continue to add liaison and representatives from each of our 24 member organizations to sit on the executive board. There are calls to get involved in helping to organize some folks interested in union organizing.

A group in Marion County also wants to start a Marion County Labor Coalition, using ACLC as a model.

The ACLC housing committee has been working the last two years to stem evictions doing letter outreach to those already served eviction notice in the courts, knocking on doors in communities with high eviction rates and fielding many calls and emails from people who were unsuccessful in applying or receiving Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding. 

We were asked to be part of the process of developing the ERAP dispersal of funds, advising that information sharing should be phone adaptable, the hiring of two intake workers to help renters gather their documents and an easily accessible portal that would let people know where they were in the process. 

Though the program has helped many people who lost work because of Covid, there were still many who have contacted ACLC who were evicted before they received the funds, their landlords would not accept funds, their landlord held the money and evicted, or landlord was overpaid after the tenant was evicted. 

The whole process was too cumbersome for many. We have been assisting tenants in filing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints against landlords. Tenants calling code enforcement and landlords retaliating is an on-going issue we are interceding on.

We went after landlords, mostly corporate that would not accept ERAP funds and finally were able, with the help of the National Housing Law Project, to get the City of Gainesville and the Alachua County legal team to agree that landlords had to accept ERAP funds under the Source of Income provision in the Anti-Discrimination in Housing ordinances that ACLC advocated for and ushered through the city and county commissions. The city and county are now holding meetings with landlords to let them know that yes, they must accept housing vouchers and ERAP funds.

We have also had multiple meetings about the Renters Rights Ordinance now in effect in the city, with the county posed to pass after the city works out kinks. For more info, go to the ACLC website.

Join the Legal System Transformation committee on Feb. 24 at 7pm. If you would like to attend, email info@laborcoalition.org. We are taking on Court Services as a first step. Cash bonds, deflection/diversion programs, pre-trial, assessment tools, first appearance, bond reduction hearings. 

Why does Court Services here almost always recommend bond? Why are they not advocating for more people to be placed in diversion programs? 

For more information, check out the ACLC website,  <laborcoalition.org/> to see the White Paper we wrote. We are using Pinellas County Court System as a model for what can be done here.

Lots more; please join us at our many committee meetings or at our March member meeting.

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