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COVID-19: Colorado Activists Call for Rent Collection Freeze and More
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COVID-19: Colorado Activists Call for Rent Collection Freeze and More

Untold thousands of Coloradans who've been laid off or dismissed from their jobs amid the battle against COVID-19 are terrified about losing their homes if they're unable to pay rent on Wednesday, April 1. With that in mind, a growing number of progressive organizations and individuals, including Denver City Council member Candi CdeBaca, are actively seeking additional sponsors for a soon-to-be-launched petition calling for an immediate freeze on rent collection and many other steps intended to assist and protect those strapped for resources during the crisis.

Writing via email about the reasons she's advocating for the petition goals, CdeBaca maintains that "the majority of our emergency relief is being aimed still at supporting small businesses instead of their workers. It is unconscionable and unacceptable to allow landlords to remain unaffected by the global disaster at the expense of the many workers who comprise the majority in our city and state."

The petition includes an introduction soliciting organizational support by noon today, March 30; the petition itself should go live on The Action Network shortly thereafter. But here are the key demands it lists for landlords, Governor Jared Polis and members of Colorado's congressional delegation, as well as police chiefs across the state and representatives of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):

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• freeze (completely waive/cancel, not defer) collection of all rent, mortgage, and utility (phone, power, water and internet) payments and automatically extend expired leases
• close all court filings for evictions and foreclosures
• immediately house houseless residents in unoccupied buildings, hotels, and other unused living spaces
• cease ICE arrests/deportations; release vulnerable populations, demilitarizing and decarcerating non-violent offenders and political prisoners from jails, prisons, and detention centers
• expand paid sick days and medical leave for all workers
• expand unemployment, food stamp, disability income and family support request filings
• eliminate all economic barriers to COVID-19 testing and treatment
• guarantee childcare and safe alternate housing for essential workers
• expand emergency production of and guaranteed access to PPE (personal protective equipment) for all essential workers
• create an economic relief fund specifically for undocumented residents excluded from federal stimulus
• learn about the specific needs of Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, LGBTQAI2S+ relatives, educators, freelancers, undocumented and documented immigrants, and low income workers, and work towards answering these needs as rapidly as possible.

The Denver Black Educators Caucus offers this collective explanation for its backing of the effort: "Facing twin crises — an unconscionably botched response by the government to a global pandemic and the sharp economic downturn (and attempted bailout) that followed — the most vulnerable among us are being left to fend for ourselves in the bleak wake of rising insecurity. Ordinary working folks cannot sit by idly while this government bails out the 1 percent and throws us crumbs. We must advance a class-wide offensive for economic and racial justice that centers the leadership of grassroots BIPOC [Black and Indigenous People/Person(s) of Color] organizing in Colorado."

Here's how the campaign came together, according to the DBEC: "We (Colorado Rent Strike & Eviction Defense + Denver Black Educators Caucus + Indigenous Voices of Poor People's Campaign) caught wind of the Emergency Economic Relief Actions platform put together by a statewide coalition of unions and community orgs and essentially streamlined their work with ours by petition-izing it, clarifying some of the demands (plus adding one about economic relief for undocumented residents), and framing its purpose in more explicitly intersectional terms."

The results resonated with Ean Thomas Tafoya, who offers a response on behalf of the Colorado Latino Forum, another signatory. "The Colorado Latino Forum is deeply concerned for people around the world and here in our community," Thomas Tafoya writes. "In a time of uncertainty and fear, ICE continues to terrorize our community. We are deeply concerned about those imprisoned at this moment, which we know are disproportionately people of color. We want people released so that they can have a chance. This is also a time to acknowledge that cash bail systems should end. Non-violent people should not be held for not having money to pay. People sit and wait with fear over as little as $50. Having spent a night in jail with the Capitol 38, I know firsthand that jails lack soap and other hygienic supplies. This places guards at risk as well, and we fight for workers as well."

In his view, "This crisis continues to expose the deep inequity in our society and sadly creates space for more hatred and racism, in an era of social distancing and a president using this as an opportunity to continue his xenophobic behavior. We stand with our Asian-descended community in repudiating these statements. This disease is so terrible because of the isolation; it leaves people to die alone. This is something that you can understand as heartbreaking regardless of your culture. Beyond this, we know that not everyone has medical care, and that has only exacerbated this pandemic. This is why call for the removal of barriers to testing and care. We also want healthcare workers to have the equipment they need to go home safe to their families."

CdeBaca points out that "Denver workers and residents were already facing an unprecedented affordability crisis prior to the onset of the COVID-19, with 46 percent of renter households and 24 percent of homeowner households being cost-burdened. In a city where 70 percent of households are cost-burdened, one missed paycheck can mean a choice between groceries or rent, with a looming potential for homelessness."

Denver City Council member Candi CdeBaca supports the petition.
Denver City Council member Candi CdeBaca supports the petition.
YouTube file photo

According to CdeBaca, "We know that we cannot freeze rents for renters and expect landlords not to also suffer. They need a freeze on mortgage payments as well."

The federal government recently passed a measure that includes payments of up to $1,200 per person as a way to deal with the situation created by the novel coronavirus. But CdeBaca sees that amount as woefully insufficient: "The proposed stimulus checks are not even enough to pay average rent for a one-bedroom in Denver, let alone possible health-related bills. We cannot continue to ignore the needs of those who keep our cities alive and thriving. We need leadership at every level of government to work diligently on our behalf to guarantee we will not be punished for following your guidance" — a reference to Polis's stay-at-home order, which runs through at least April 11.

She stresses, "We need to prove to our citizens now more than ever that their government had a plan and the ability to serve and protect us all during the times where we need them most. We bailed out the banks last time. This time, the rest of America needs the bailout and the loyalty of our elected leaders."

Here is the petition, with links:

Petition:

We have power together in a unified front in the middle of this public health, human rights, and economic catastrophe, during which everyone’s sole focus is protecting ourselves and our relatives! Many are sacrificing health and safety for a paycheck, worrying how they will pay rent on April 1st, how they will survive without shelter in the first place, or if and when ICE will come banging on their doors. A great number of Coloradans face a bleak future of rising insecurity — especially the most vulnerable among us. This isn’t happening to just a few of us. This shut-down is causing tremendous hardship. Accordingly, we must do everything possible to demand that local government, landlords, congressional representatives, police chiefs, and ICE work to keep it from further metastasizing into a deeper social and economic crisis, with race and class defining who rises and who falls. This is not the time for half-steps or hesitation! All working families in Colorado and beyond are suffering and together we must further aggressive, intersectional, and transformational plans to save ourselves.

Organizations & Collectives: Please sign onto this (editable) document by Monday (March 30) at noon and link to your org’s website or online presence. We will then transition this to an actionnetwork.org petition and ask that you share the petition; for mass appeals’ sake, the petition will be bit.ly linked in a spunky one-page flyer to share out! Our goal is 50,000 signatures of individuals who represent The People the coalition speaks on behalf of.

*We ask that if you are an individual struggling or just want to support in solidarity, and you endorse the work of this coalition speaking for all of us, that you sign onto the action network petition launching March 30, not this doc!

Petition text for actionnetwork:

To: Landlords, Governor Polis, Colorado Congressional Representatives, ICE and Statewide Police Chiefs
From: [Your Petition Signers]

It is not news to anyone that we are in unprecedented times. The calls for cooperation from the public from government and community leaders for physical isolation for the safety and wellbeing of us all have largely been honored and with this has come an economic crisis of epic proportions. We need your help. We're doing our part now and we need you to do yours in a way that honors the health and economic safety of more than just businesses and wealth holders. Your work is noticed and now what we need is for that work to become nuanced.

We are a coalition representing common good needs of thousands of community members, organizations, collectives, and more who make the occupied Indigenous territories we call Colorado vibrant. There are so many calls for unity. We have it as The People. Now, we need it from you as leadership, too. What does this mean? It means we need you to, beginning April 1st and continuing through this crisis:

• freeze (completely waive/cancel, not defer) collection of all rent, mortgage, and utility (phone, power, water and internet) payments and automatically extend expired leases
• close all court filings for evictions and foreclosures
• immediately house houseless residents in unoccupied buildings, hotels, and other unused living spaces
• cease ICE arrests/deportations; release vulnerable populations, demilitarizing and decarcerating non-violent offenders and political prisoners from jails, prisons, and detention centers
• expand paid sick days and medical leave for all workers
• expand unemployment, food stamp, disability income and family support request filings
• eliminate all economic barriers to COVID-19 testing and treatment
• guarantee childcare and safe alternate housing for essential workers
• expand emergency production of and guaranteed access to PPE (personal protective equipment) for all essential workers
• create an economic relief fund specifically for undocumented residents excluded from federal stimulus
• learn about the specific needs of Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, LGBTQAI2S+ relatives, educators, freelancers, undocumented and documented immigrants, and low income workers, and work towards answering these needs as rapidly as possible.

These actions must be taken not for just 30 days, but indefinitely, for at least as long as a risk to public health and wellness remains. Government agencies and landlords alike MUST act honestly and effectively to prevent the pandemic from reaching beyond its current point. We are the most vulnerable members of our society and it is falling on our backs to bear the brunt of this crisis’ consequences. Drastic action must be taken!

Nothing demonstrates our fundamental interconnectedness like a pandemic. Our fates rise and fall together. Racial and economic equity for the common good is the way forward yesterday, today, and tomorrow — and in this moment, more crucial than ever! Please be the leaders we believe you can be.

We make these demands in alliance and solidarity with Indigenous people, with Black and Brown relatives, with marginalized and disabled folks, with womxn and children, with allied community members who rise in solidarity, and with the guidance from the Emergency Economic Relief Actions for Colorado platform, released March 27th.

Leaders, landlords, Governor Polis, congressional representatives, ICE and all police chiefs across Colorado, please do the right thing.

Signed,

Indigenous Voices of the Poor People’s Campaign
Denver Black Educators Caucus
Black Lives Matter 5280
Colorado Latino Forum
Colorado Rent Strike and Eviction Defense
Front Range Mutual Aid Network
Missing Indigenous Sisters Tools Initiative (M.I.S.T.I.)
John Stone, Englewood City Councilmember At-Large
Warriors For High Quality Schools
Indivisible Front Range Resistance
Candi CdeBaca, District 9, Denver City Council
Tay Anderson, Secretary, Denver School Board
Bobby LeFebre, Colorado Poet Laureate
Alison Coombs, Ward V, Aurora City Council
Rev. Jessica Abell, ABC-USA, Spirituality Collective
Shontel M. Lewis, the Regional Transportation District Director, District B
Cultivando
DCTA President (Tiffany Choi)
Hassan A. Latif, E.D. Second Chance Center, Inc.
Second Chance Center-Servants of Community
OurVoices-OurSchools
The Kaleidoscope Project
Lorena Garcia, U.S. Senate Candidate
Cayenna Johnson
Our Revolution Metro Denver
Denver Democratic Socialists of America

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