Memphis Law recently welcomed Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Wally Adeyemo on his visit to Memphis to highlight how Memphis and Shelby County were successful examples of utilizing Emergency Rental Assistance Programs. 

The law school was one of the first in the country to take on the eviction crisis at the beginning of the pandemic and helped co-found the Eviction Settlement Program in 2020, alongside many of the partners attending the event with the Deputy Secretary. 

Adeyemo had high praise for both governments for bringing multiple groups together to make sure people stayed safely housed during the pandemic.

“Ultimately the resources of the plan were intended to make sure that we were able to unlock the potential of American communities to solve the challenges of the pandemic,” he said. “That is exactly what has happened here in Memphis and Shelby County.”

He noted that millions of dollars have been distributed in Memphis providing more than 16,000 payments to families in need.

“Memphis and Shelby County’s program is a story about a community working to use its rental assistance dollars as effectively as possible to achieve real results for families,” said Deputy Secretary Adeyemo. “The way the program has integrated with the local courts system to divert unnecessary evictions by giving those facing an eviction the opportunity access ERA and providing free legal services is a model for the rest of the country.”

In addition to his remarks in the law school's Fourth Floor Scenic Reading Room, the Deputy Secretary took the time to meet exclusively with law students involved in the Eviction Settlement Program. Six Memphis Law students discussed their work with the Deputy Secretary in the law school's Legal Clinic and several other Memphis Law students and representatives took part in an extended Roundtable discussion with the Deputy Secretary and a variety of Memphis and Shelby County government officials, community leaders, and ERA program participants. 

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"I am immensely proud of the work done by our law school faculty, staff and students in this matter," said Dean Katharine Schaffzin. "We were able to help support families in Memphis by helping co-found the Eviction Settlement Program in 2020, alongside many of our partners here today, and connect local attorneys with tenants who were in danger of eviction due to financial hardships caused by the pandemic."

"Since March of last year alone, Memphis Law students have contributed more than 500 in-court work hours as program outreach liaisons and in the structured observation of approximately 4,500 eviction cases in Shelby County General Sessions Court."

In his remarks, the Deputy Secretary emphasized that Treasury continues to urge states and localities to dedicate a portion of their money from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds—a $350 billion program under the American Rescue Plan—to continue to fund rental assistance, other eviction prevention programs, and expand the availability of affordable housing. Congress and Treasury gave states and localities significant flexibility over the use of these funds so they can prioritize the areas of greatest need in their communities, and Treasury has already seen many use these funds for housing programs and projects nationwide.

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