ASWSU, GPSA call for moratorium on evictions, utility shut-offs

Students are already experiencing financial hardship, should not worry about basic essentials

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen reporter

ASWSU and GPSA published a letter on Friday calling for a moratorium on evictions, utility shut-offs, large gatherings, foreclosures and mortgage payments in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The letter was sent to local legislators and Gov. Jay Inslee, asking that companies not cut off essential utilities or evict residents.

“We want to make sure we’re protecting the basics,” said Matthew Sutherland, GPSA vice president of legislative affairs. “That people have a roof over their heads, they’re able to have access to heat, electricity, water [and] the internet.” 

ASWSU President Quinton Berkompas said students are losing their jobs or working reduced hours because local businesses expect students to leave Pullman. 

“A lot of people have financial uncertainty moving forward and a lot of fear,” Berkompas said. 

Sutherland said what the letter is asking for is very reasonable given the current crisis situation. 

“We don’t want to compound this crisis with more crises,” Sutherland said.

President Kirk Schulz signed off on the letter, but was not involved in drafting it, according to a press release from GPSA.

An email sent out to Avista customers on Friday evening said the power company will stop utility disconnects in Washington, Oregon and Idaho because of the current situation.

Sutherland said CenturyLink also committed to not shut off services.

Pullman City Councilman Brandon Chapman said in a Tweet that Pullman will not shut off water for residents, but that it will not suspend water and sewer payments.

Chapman said the City of Pullman will not be charging late fees for people who pay their water bills late. However, they will not be absolving payment entirely and customers will still have to pay their suspended bills.

Chapman said it would be ideal for Inslee to put a statewide hold on mortgage payments.

Some renters depend on students paying rent to pay their own mortgages, he said. If rent is their primary source of income, they may also be experiencing financial hardship.

“Social distancing does not mean that you have to leave campus,” Chapman said.

Even though students may want refunds, they are still legally required to pay their leases, he said.

“That’s the hard part — how do we meld the compassion with the practical nature of things?” Chapman said.

The Federal Communications Commission is asking internet providers to sign the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, Sutherland said. Currently CenturyLink, Frontier and Charter, the parent company of Spectrum, are all listed on the pledge.

Berkompas said they would like to see action taken at the state level to prevent evictions during the crisis.

Student representatives from International Student Council, Interfraternity Council, Black Student Union and other groups all signed off on the letter. 

Sutherland said Inslee has many people to listen to during the crisis, but that he hopes he can listen to what student groups are asking.

“It is a statement in and of itself that these groups are coming together,” Sutherland said. “Ideally the response is that we all come together and acknowledge this crisis is going to impact us all negatively.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include Charter Communications being on the FCC pledge and Brandon Chapman’s comments on financial hardships.