SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert has implemented an eviction freeze and rent deferral for people who may be struggling to pay bills in the coronavirus pandemic.
At a news conference Wednesday, the governor announced an executive order, halting any residential eviction proceedings until at least May 15.
"A 45-day extension. It’s on any kind of eviction," he said. "The issue is in fact, most of the ones in the crosshairs, are landlords and tenants and residential properties. We will look to see if there needs to be modifications of that."
The governor also announced that tenants who rent can seek some kind of deferral, if necessary.
"This does not get rid of the obligation. But it creates some time and space for other measures to come into place," Gov. Herbert told reporters.
The governor initially suggested his eviction and rent deferral orders would apply to commercial businesses. His office later clarified it was targeted toward residential properties.
The executive order was welcomed by housing advocates who feared that, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Utah economically, people now out of work would be made homeless. Unemployment has climbed quickly as businesses have been forced to close because of the coronavirus.
"We have time before May 15 to hopefully put some other programs in place and maybe get additional funding from the feds," said Tara Rollins with the Utah Housing Coalition, which advocates for renters, praising the governor for his order.
Rollins said her group urged people to make rent payments and said the governor's order is not a "get out of rent free" card.
"We don’t want people to misunderstand this to mean they don’t have to pay their rent at the end of the day. They should still go and talk to their landlords, and make sure their landlords understand what the predicament they’re in and how they’re working towards making good with their rent," she told FOX 13.
Gov. Herbert urged people who are out of work to sign up with Utah's Department of Workforce Services for unemployment insurance.
The governor also issued an other executive order on Wednesday, loosening some restrictions on restaurants struggling to stay afloat. He is now allowing people to walk into a restaurant to get a take-out order.
"People can actually go into a restaurant and order from the counter and then pick up the food. If and only if, social distancing can be accommodated," Gov. Herbert said. "A minimum of six feet between anybody that’s in line. We want to emphasize that strict hygiene takes place."
On Wednesday, Utah reported seven fatalities and 1,012 positive cases of COVID-19. There have been 73 hospitalizations and 20,155 tests. The two newest fatalities came from Salt Lake County, said state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.
Speaking to reporters, Dr. Dunn said there were some early signs that Utah was starting to "flatten the curve" of coronavirus cases. She urged people to stay home and practice social distancing to keep the case load down.
Utah is working to secure personal protective equipment for medical professionals, said Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. He asked for people with the capability of making resparators to contact Utah's Department of Health. He also urged people to volunteer to help in the pandemic response. A number of ways to help can be found at coronavirus.utah.gov/help.
Read the governor's executive order on rent and evictions here: