On April 20, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Baker signed into law An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency. The moratorium was originally set to expire on August 18, 2020, but Governor Baker had previously extended the moratorium until October 17, 2020. While Governor Baker had the option to extend the moratorium further, he declined to do so, and the moratorium expired at midnight on October 17, 2020.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts and across the country have been on the rise. According to the New York Times, the seven-day average for new cases in Massachusetts was 656 on October 17, the date the moratorium expired. As of October 26, the seven-day average for new cases was 1,041, an increase of over 60 percent, with a total of 1,212 new cases reported on that date.
In anticipation of the expiration of the moratorium, Governor Baker announced a $171 million Eviction Diversion Initiative intended to help people stay in their homes. The initiative included an increase in benefit under the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program from $4,000 to $10,000 per household.
In addition, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey revealed that the court “has modified its procedures to provide for a two-tier process that will enable tenants and landlords to access resources and mediate their disputes in order to preserve tenancies.” Expecting a large number of eviction actions once the moratorium expired, the Baker administration rehired fifteen judges “to address the critical backlog of eviction cases throughout the commonwealth…until the Trial Court is up to date on eviction cases,” according to a Trial Court spokesperson.