State says landlords can resume evictions soon as virus protection removed

Published 6:08 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that as of June 1, landlords can again start evicting tenants. He suspended evictions several weeks ago because people were losing jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to give everyone enough time for people to get the money that they need together to make a rent payment if you have fallen behind,” Reeves said.

Although unemployment remains high, Reeves has been gradually allowing businesses to reopen, including restaurants, barber shops and hair salons. The Republican governor said he hopes the two-month suspension has helped people get through the “most painful time.”

“We have to recognize that housing doesn’t just happen and it doesn’t grow on trees and we cannot suspend evictions forever,” Reeves said.

Reeves’s announcement about evictions came a day after the state Public Service Commission said it is extending its order that bans utilities from cutting off customers’ water, sewer, electricity and gas services for nonpayment. The two-month order had been set to expire this week, and it was extended until May 26.

The commission said customers who owe money should arrange to make payments.

Mississippi legislators on Wednesday were hearing from state education leaders about challenges that schools, community colleges and universities have faced since in-person classes were suspended in mid-March because of the pandemic.

State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said some schools were better prepared than others to offer online classes. She said parts of the state lack high-speed internet access, some students have no access to computers and others must share devices with others in their family.

“There has never been a better opportunity for this state to address the inequities that exist,” Wright said.

With the possibility that school will be disrupted by another outbreak of COVID-19 in the fall or by other events such as hurricanes, Wright said, Mississippi needs a long-term plan to improve access to distance learning. She said the state also needs to ensure that teachers are using high-quality programs that meet rigorous academic standards.

“Their future is not going to be in front of an individual teacher all the time,” Wright said. “It is going to be online as well as what they are getting in the classroom.”

The state Health Department said Wednesday that Mississippi — with a population of about 3 million — had at least 10,090 confirmed cases and 465 deaths from the coronavirus as of Tuesday evening. That was an increase of 182 cases and eight deaths from the numbers reported a day earlier.

The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

The Health Department said Wednesday that at least 100,048 coronavirus tests had been conducted in Mississippi as of Tuesday. The department said at least 1,267 cases of the virus had been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 212 virus-related deaths in those facilities.