Voting in 2020

Have you made your plan to vote yet?

In a historic election year, your voice deserves to be heard. Vote for #accesstojustice this fall.  Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy encourages everyone who can to vote and let their voice be heard. 

Below you can find information on how to register to vote in North Carolina, ways that you can vote in North Carolina, resources for this information, and non-partisan election volunteer opportunities.  

How to Register to Vote: 

Regular voter registration ends on October 9th, 2020. Eligible voters can register to vote three ways: 

  • BMail: Fill out the voter registration form (English) (Spanish) and mail it to your local Board of Elections office or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Click here to find your local Board of Elections office.  
  • Online: North Carolina residents who have a valid driver’s license can register to vote online on the DMV website. There is no fee associated with this service.   
  • In Person: You can register to vote in person at your local Board of Elections office, DMV, or during early voting.  

If you miss the regular voter registration deadline, you can register at your early voting polling precinct between October 15th and October 31st AND vote on the same day. You must have a document with your legal name and proof of address such as a valid NC driver’s license or other government issued identification, a recent utility bill, or a current college/university identification with proof of campus residency. Learn more about early voting registration here. Check your early voting site here.   

How to Vote: 

Registered voters in North Carolina can cast their ballot by mail (also known as absentee voting) or in-person:  

  • By Mail: You can request your absentee ballot online via the North Carolina absentee ballot request portal. You should request your ballot as soon as possible and at least two weeks prior to election day due to mail delays. After receipt of your ballot, cast your vote in the presence of a witness and return it to any of the following locations by 5pm on November 3rd: 
  • Mail it to or drop it off at your local Board of Elections office. Click here to find your local Board of Elections office. 
  • Drop it off at your early voting site between October 15th and October 31st. Find your early voting site here.   
  • In person: You can vote early in-person between October 15th and October 31st or on election day on November 3rd. Please note that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the locations of polling precincts and that in-person voters will be required to follow all COVID-19 state safety guidelines. Curbside voting is available for individuals who are unable to enter the polling precinct. Find your early voting site here. Find your election day voting site here.  

Get Involved 

There are several options to for interested volunteers to get involved in the 2020 election: 

  • Election officials and student assistant election officials direct voters during in-person voting days. Learn more and sign up on the NC Board of Elections website.  
  • Train and sign up to be a poll monitor with Election Protection, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition.  
  • Register your friends and family to vote with the information provided in this email! (Or forward this email to them!) 

Living in Fear: Report Documents the Harm Inflicted on Immigrant Families, Children in Charlotte Area, Carolinas

Every day, immigrant families live in fear of separation and suffer from chronic stress while struggling to build a stable life in a community that keeps them on the fringes.

These are the findings of a recent report documenting the harm of the Trump administration’s deliberate attacks on immigrants living in the Carolinas and across the U.S.

In collaboration with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and South Carolina Appleseed, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) has released its findings based on interviews with a range of professionals serving the immigrant community—including childcare providers, nursing home visitors, health and mental health care providers, health insurance navigators, nutrition assistance providers, and legal service providers.

“The Trump Administration has repeatedly shown indifference to the effects of its policies and rhetoric on children across the country and in some cases is deliberately using harm to immigrant children as a political lever,” said Madison Allen, co-author of the Carolinas report and senior policy analyst/attorney at CLASP. “We found that parents are altering their daily lives and avoiding public health, nutrition, and education programs because of these relentless attacks. We heard stories about parents being detained in front of their children, kids who are afraid to go outside and play, and chronic stress that will have long-term consequences for many children.”

Charlotte’s foreign-born population makes up 10 percent of the total population, with most individuals coming from Latin America (50 percent) and Asia (31 percent). This population has grown significantly over the past 10 years.

With one in four children having at least one immigrant parent, the report illustrates the deliberate detrimental impact this administration’s rhetoric and policies are having on children and, by extension, our greater community.

Through interviews conducted between January and March 2020 in the Charlotte metro and Columbia, S.C. areas, recurring themes echoed the harmful and deep impacts families experience because of the Trump administration’s harmful rhetoric and zero-tolerance enforcement tactics.

Interviewees shared stories of how the constant, looming fear of immigration enforcement dramatically impacts daily life for immigrant parents and children in their communities.

Parents and caregivers are afraid to leave their homes to work or take care of everyday necessities out of fear that they will not return home to their families. That fear is not limited to adults either. Children of all ages are also experiencing and internalizing chronic stress and anxiety that impacts their health and wellbeing in ways that will linger for years.

Providers shared concerns about the children who are living at homes with chronic ongoing stress and what that means for their future. As a nurse practitioner explained, “the increase in cortisol and the inflammatory markers that go along with stress precipitates a lot of chronic disease.”

Families are also avoiding publicly funded health and nutrition services for which they are eligible specifically due to the administration’s new Public Charge rule. The rule, which went into effect Feb. 24, expands the types of benefits considered in the “public charge” immigration test administered to immigrants entering the country or seeking permanent residency to determine if they will become primarily dependent on the government for financial support.

The rule has faced several court challenges since going into effect with decisions just in the last month that have put it on hold and then resumed it again, adding to confusion about what options families have.

Immigrants without legal status do not qualify for most public benefits. Most immigrants with status who do qualify for public benefits along with all U.S. citizen family members are not subject to the rule. Also, several types of public benefits are not included in the assessment, such as WIC, NC Health Choice and Emergency Medicaid. This hasn’t stopped families from withdrawing from stabilizing programs out of fear.

In the report, Advocacy Center staff shared several stories of families choosing not to enroll in benefits.

One story involved a woman from Mexico who had been a U.S. citizen for 20 years. During a meeting to enroll in health coverage, a health insurance navigator shared that the woman was eligible to sign up for food stamps (SNAP benefits) based on her income. The woman declined “… because of the public charge, she thought it applied to her … and she was just really scared.”

Medical-Legal Partnership coordinator Elizabeth Setaro has been leading the Advocacy Center’s efforts to help families fight fear with facts.

“Through education and outreach, we are making sure families understand what they’re entitled to receive and have access to the necessary resources that ensure they remain stable during these uncertain times,” Setaro said.

On top of policy threats at the federal level, immigrant families in the Carolinas face added barriers when accessing safety net programs like Medicaid due to shortcomings in the state eligibility software and training for social services staff. These systems are difficult for most people to effectively navigate without assistance, especially when English is a second language.

CLASP’s research found that conditions for immigrant children and their families in the Carolinas were exacerbated by confusion, misinformation and limited availability of legal services, specifically in South Carolina.

In the Charlotte region, the Advocacy Center is the largest provider of free and low-cost legal services for immigrant families, but additional options for legal assistance are limited beyond hiring a private attorney.

Private immigration attorneys are often not well versed on immigrant eligibility for public benefits, which also adds to confusion and uncertainty.

The Advocacy Center fights to ensure equal access to resources under the law for immigrant families. That includes working with service providers and the immigrant community to help families understand and access local resources that are available, while also holding administrative and government systems accountable to provide services families are entitled to receive.

The report’s findings illustrate the need for policies that equitably ensure safety, economic security and stability for all families, including immigrants.

Such policies would enable all people to live their lives as productive citizens engaging in civic and economic life without fear and build a strong community that allows families to thrive.

Learn more by reading the report, “Trump Administration Immigration Policies Are Harming Children and Families in the Carolinas”.

New Driver’s License Restoration Program gets N.C. Residents Back on the Road to Opportunity

Driver’s License Restoration Program Builds on Statewide Effort to Forgive Fees, Minor Traffic Issues

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has launched a Driver’s License Restoration program to help low-income individuals who have lost their driver’s licenses due to minor traffic violations and failure to pay court fees. The program builds upon the momentum of an initiative undertaken by the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office to forgive court fees for more than 11,000 Mecklenburg County residents now listed in the NC Fair Chance database.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is working to help those with suspended licenses understand their eligibility for fee forgiveness, and provide direct legal assistance to others. The goal of the organization’s Driver’s License Restoration program is to help Charlotteans drive legally, improving their access to employment, education and opportunity. 

“Speeding tickets and court fines are a relatively minor expense for many of us,” explained attorney Lashieka Hardin who coordinates Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Community Redevelopment project. “But for many Charlotte residents, those expenses compete with critical priorities like putting food on the table and keeping the lights on.”

One in seven North Carolina residents has had their driver’s license suspended, most often for simple violations that include running stop signs, speeding and failing to pay court fees and fines. Without the ability to legally drive to school, work or appointments, community members with suspended licenses face significant barriers to economic mobility. Without access to representation and funds to pay court fees and apply for restoration, these residents can face misdemeanor convictions and even incarceration. 

Several government and community partners are tackling this problem from different angles to help North Carolina residents, and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is filling in the gaps. The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office has forgiven fees for more than 11,000 residents who have lost their licenses.

Those whose offenses were two years old at the time were added to a web-based database compiled by NC Fair Chance, a project of the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center, the North Carolina Justice Center and district attorney partners across the state. While the database can be an easily accessible and user-friendly first step for the residents listed, it does not include all who may qualify. 

To check if your traffic fine or court fee was eliminated, please check the North Carolina Fair Chance database.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will provide support for those listed in the database, and help those not listed understand their eligibility for debt forgiveness. For those whose driver’s licenses have been suspended for other reasons, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy may be able to provide direct legal services and representation. Once fees are forgiven and legal issues resolved, the organization will complete the process of restoring clients’ driver’s licenses, putting vulnerable Charlotteans on a path to better opportunity.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Driver’s License Restoration program is available to Mecklenburg County residents who earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level and do not have any pending traffic charges.

Those who have lost North Carolina driver’s licenses can call 704-376-1600 ext. 523 for more details. Clients will receive a free copy of their statewide driving record, and if eligible, their cases will be placed with a staff or volunteer attorney to complete the process of driver’s license restoration. 

Learn more about the Driver’s License Restoration Project.

Action Alert: A Second Chance for N.C. Residents

Roy Cooper and the N.C. Legislature give people with criminal records a second chance  

Yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Second Chance Act (SB 562) into law after its unanimous passage in the N.C. General Assembly. This “clean slate” legislation expands eligibility for N.C. residents to have nonviolent criminal offenses removed from their records through expunctions.

This is welcome news for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and the people it serves because it eliminates barriers to safety, economic stability and family security.   

Through its Community Redevelopment Project, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps eligible citizens get expunctions, which seal criminal records from public view and give people a second chance at a life as law-abiding citizens without barriers to opportunity.    

More than 2 million North Carolinians have a criminal record. Dismissed charges and old convictions have lasting consequences on individuals that impact their access to employment, housing and other opportunities.   

“The Second Chance Act is a welcomed fresh start for millions of North Carolinians with criminal records who would like a clean slate.”   

Lashieka Hardin, attorney, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

“This legislation is also a significant step toward addressing the severe disparities that exist in our justice system that disproportionately impact people based on income and race,” Hardin said.   

The Second Chance Act is a critical step in the process of improving racial justice and equity in our society. The NAACP reports that a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a job offer by almost 50 percent, and the negative impact of a criminal record is doubled for Black people. A Black person with a criminal record has a 10 percent chance of getting a call back compared to white men who have a 22 percent chance.

The Second Chance Act will provide Black men and women who are disproportionately charged and convicted of crimes the chance to pursue opportunity without a criminal record holding them back.  

What the Second Chance Act Will Do:

  • Automatic relief for certain misdemeanor and felony charges that are dismissed or disposed “not guilty.”
  • Relief for Juvenile offenders by allowing the expunction of misdemeanor and Class H or I felony convictions that occurred when a person was either 16 or 17 and before December 1, 2019.
  • Gives prosecutors the power to petition for the expunction of dismissed charges and charges disposed “not guilty” as well as “Raise the Age” convictions.
  • Expands eligibility by allowing individuals to petition for the expunction of nonviolent misdemeanor criminal convictions after seven years of good behavior.

If you think you qualify for an expunction or have any questions about the process, call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at 704-376-1600 ext 501. Also, tune in to our Facebook Live on Tuesday at noon for more detailed information about the Second Chance Act.    

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes all people deserve second chances at opportunity, and we’re glad to see that after many years, the state of North Carolina has taken a step toward that goal. 

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Governor Roy Cooper signed the Second Chance Act today, granting millions a second chance at opportunity.    

Share this message with your networks and encourage those who may qualify for an expunction to contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for more information on what to do next.  

Learn more information about Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s work on expunctions through its Community Redevelopment Project.   

Celebrating Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, the last group of enslaved people in the U.S. learned they were free two years after the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery was issued. 

Today, Juneteenth marks this historic moment of celebration and deliverance. But 155 years later, here in 2020, there is still much work to be done for freedom.

In the face of police brutality and racism that we challenge today, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy stands with the Black community and its allies across the country in the movement to make change.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has chosen to close its offices to observe Juneteenth as a small but important step toward racial reconciliation for our country. We observe this day to show support for our Black neighbors, colleagues and clients who deserve to be treated equally as human beings.

We celebrate Independence Day as a nation even though enslaved people were deliberately excluded from the ideals of freedom laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

We celebrate Juneteenth and imagine what our country could be if we prioritized racial justice and equity to build a truly inclusive democracy that realizes the ideals our country was founded upon.

Today also encourages dialogue around the deferred dream of freedom that has always existed for Black people in the United States. Though these people finally learned that slavery had ended 155 years ago, they were not truly free then, and neither are Black Americans today.

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, we fight for equal justice under the law every day for our clients, a majority of whom are people of color disproportionately impacted by poverty. Racial justice and equity are core to our work.

Black people were not included when the phrase “justice for all” was originally coined, yet equal justice for all is impossible to realize without eradicating the systemic racism that pervades our society.

We recognize the critical role our organization plays in building a more just community. Doing so requires taking a hard look at our practices and making sure that everything we do lives up to our standard of justice—one that truly ensures equity and opportunity for all.

Happy Juneteenth from Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

“[Recognizing Juneteenth] was an important, positive statement that is part of a larger demonstration of our agency to work toward racial reconciliation.”

Executive Director Kenneth Schorr in the Charlotte Observer: Amid anti-racism protests, Charlotte businesses make Juneteenth a paid holiday

Celebrate Juneteenth with us:

Educate yourself: Spend the day reading about Juneteenth’s history, including how black families felt after being emancipated. Watch the documentary 13th on Netflix, or engage with other movies, shows, books and podcasts about systemic racism.

Participate in online Juneteenth events: Tune in to the virtual Juneteenth music festival or online gala, the following contains information on local events  

Reflect: While slavery ended in 1865, systemic racism continues to this day. Use June 19 as a day to reflect on critical issues that perpetuate discrimination against black people in America and throughout the world.

Place a sign in your front yard: Raise awareness and show your support for Juneteenth by decorating a sign for your front yard or door. This is a great way to help educate younger kids in your neighborhood who may not know about the holiday.

Celebrate with a barbecue: Gather your friends and family together (safely) to celebrate freedom.

Keep the spirit of this special day alive by continuing to fight for justice for ALL!

Action Alert: Supreme Court Sides with DACA Recipients, Providing Relief for Immigrant Youth and Their Families

This decision emphasizes that DACA is right, and that for DACA recipients and their families: home is here.   

Today, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in a 5-4 ruling that said the Trump administration’s reasoning for ending the program was “capricious and arbitrary.”  

In the decision for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” 

Chief Justice Roberts added that the administration could try again if it provided adequate reasons for shutting down the program.

A joint statement from Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Comunidad Colectiva, the Hispanic Federation, Action NC and Latin American Coalition:  

Today’s decision is a testament to what happens when directly impacted communities demand change. The Supreme Court sided with the American people- who overwhelmingly support the DACA program- and rejected the decision to deport immigrants who are American in every sense except by law.

This decision protects the lives of nearly 700,000 current DACA recipients, including more than 24,000 in North Carolina, and their families from deportation-for now. This decision affirms what we have always known: immigrants make America great. It comes as our country continues to struggle under COVID-19. During this time, DACA recipients and immigrants broadly have played critical roles in supporting our health systems and economy. 

Currently, 29 percent of all physicians, 38 percent of home health aides and 23 percent of retail-store pharmacists are foreign-born. Immigrants also make up a large proportion of essential staff in grocery stores, hospitals, sanitation and transportation. According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly one-third of DACA recipients work in these essential jobs.
With this decision, DACA recipients and their families can continue to live safely in our community. Nearly 250,000 children in this country have a parent with DACA status. Since the Trump administration rescinded the program in 2017, immigrant youth, their families and allies across the country have been fighting to protect DACA. While this decision gives needed relief for DACA recipients and their families, immigration and deportation threats are far from over. 

Charlotte immigration advocacy groups including the Latin American Coalition, Hispanic Federation, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Comunidad Colectiva, and Action NC call on the Trump administration to respect the decision of the Supreme Court and not try to end the program again. The administration must also instruct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) not to share information that DACA recipients and their families have voluntarily given to the government with ICE.  

As we celebrate today’s decision, we also acknowledge how much more fighting for change there is still to do. While this decision is a welcome relief for many, there is still much to be done to protect the DACA program and its beneficiaries. One step is for people to make their voice heard by voting in the November election.  

This decision follows weeks of courageous organizing and protests from Black people and allies across the country to demand an end to police brutality, white supremacy and a call to reallocate police resources in ways that strengthen our community safety net. We stand with the immigrant and Black community and commit to fighting for their stability and safety.

Each of our advocacy groups are here to support dreamers and DACAmented individuals during this time. On Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m., Comunidad Colectiva will hold a Facebook Live with more information about what this decision means and what to expect as we move forward.  This victory is for the youth and their families who are fighting the good fight. Today, the Supreme Court stood with the immigrant community, protecting their right to work and thrive in the place they grew up, the place they call home. 


Our Asks for Next Steps 

  • Demand that USCIS immediately begin accepting new DACA applications and continue DACA renewals, restoring the program to its original state before termination.
     
  • Call on Congress to pass permanent protections and solutions that help these beneficiaries, including extensions of TPS work permits, protections from deportation for immigrants, and benefits in any future stimulus package to address COVID-19.
     
  • Call on state and local leaders to get ICE and CPB out of our communities and sign onto our pledge as well as working to provide free COVID-19 testing, treatment and services for all, regardless of immigration status.
     
  • In solidarity with Black people, we call for the investment in community initiatives that strengthen Black and Brown communities, as well as changing laws and enforcement policies to end the systemic mass incarceration of people of color.
     
  • An immediate suspension of the Public Charge rule

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The Supreme Court ruled in favor of upholding the DACA program today, but the fight to protect DACA continues. 

Share this message with your networks and encourage those who need assistance with DACA to contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for more information on what to do next.  

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Katten Attorney Joins Advocacy Center to Support Community Redevelopment

Katten Muchin Roseman LLP has allowed one of its attorneys to join the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s staff this summer to support efforts to provide stability for families in the Charlotte metro region.

Max Swindle joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy May 26, as part of a three-month attorney loan program. Swindle, a real estate attorney specializing in commercial real estate finance, is working with the Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection Program to help people clean up their criminal records and get drivers licenses restored.

For the more than 2 million North Carolinians with a criminal record, finding jobs, housing and opportunity is an uphill battle. And one in seven N.C. adults has a suspended drivers license, leaving them unable to effectively get to work, school or run everyday errands without a car.

These issues disproportionately impact people based on income and race, which is why the Advocacy Center’s Community Redevelopment Project seeks to eliminate these barriers to opportunity and promote equity in our community.

“I am so excited to have Max join us to do this important work,” said attorney Lashieka Hardin, who manages the Community Redevelopment Project. “I look forward to seeing all the great things we do together as team over the next few months.”

Adding a full-time attorney to focus on these two practice areas is an innovative approach that enables the Advocacy Center to serve more people in need, provide stability and promote economic opportunity.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Diana Godoy interviewed Swindle during his first week on the job. Learn a bit more about him in his own words:

About Max Swindle …

“I grew up in North Carolina, went to UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad and then stayed there for law school. I graduated law school in 2017, and I moved out to Denver, Colorado to work. I was there until December 2018. And then my wife , who I met in law school, and I moved back to North Carolina. She’s originally from Charlotte. I’m from Winston-Salem. So, we just decided to move home.”

What he does at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP …

“Since graduating law school, I have been working as an attorney for Katten Muchin Rosenman and their real estate finance practice group. I represent lenders, different commercial banks and investment groups and originating new loans for the commercial mortgage backed securities market.”

Why he came to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy …

“With the COVID-19 outbreak, my practice area has been very slow the last few months, really ever since March. Our office managing partner and our deputy general counsel had been in contact with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to see if they could use some help over the next few months with the expunction and driver’s license restoration programs.

They asked me if [joining the Advocacy Center staff] was something I was interested in. And I said, ‘Yeah, that’ll be great.’ I just hope I can pitch in and pick up on these new areas of practice as quickly as I can to be of use.”

What he will be doing …

“For this first week, I’ve been working on a few cases in-house with Lashieka Hardin to kind of get my feet on the ground, kind of understanding how this all works.

And then I believe starting next week, I’m going to start helping with a new driver’s license restoration project. We look at clients that have already been in contact with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and they have either some misdemeanor or felony charges on their record that could be eligible to be removed if they meet certain criteria. We review those, figure out what we can do, and we file petitions with the different [N.C.] counties where those charges show up.

We hope to get these charges off people’s records because having different charges listed can hinder people getting housing, getting jobs, getting loans, things like that. And I think that’ll continue throughout the summer. I think some of it will be  helping coordinate clinics and with outside pro bono attorneys, kind of helping them handle different client interactions.”

What he’s looking forward to …

“Just getting to interact with a great group of attorneys who are very, very good at what they do. I’ve been a part of the few video meetings this first week with the Consumer Protection group. Everyone’s super nice, super passionate about what they’re doing. The work is great: helping people with complex problems that that can really affect your everyday life.

It’s about just getting to work with such great people and give back to the community. I don’t have as much time as I would like to do this work in my normal firm job, so this has been a great opportunity.”

What he hopes to get out of this experience …

“I’m going to try and just absorb as much information as I can so that hopefully when these few months are over, I’ll be able to maybe come back to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy as a pro bono attorney to help out with things like expunctions or maybe this driver’s license restoration project later on. I would like to stay involved. I’m just hoping to learn as much as I can so that I can continue to be necessary.”

Thank you to Katten for partnering with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in our mission to pursue justice for those in need. We are glad to have Max on our team!

Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd, 59. Breonna Taylor, 26. Ahmaud Arbery, 25. Eric Garner, 43. Eric Reason, 38. Atatiana Jefferson, 28. Antwon Rose II, 17. Botham Jean, 26. Sandra Bland, 28. Philando Castile, 32. Jordan Davis, 17. Trayvon Martin, 17. Tamir Rice, 12. Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7. Emmett Till, 14. Addie Collins, 14. Denise McNair, 11. Carole Robertson, 14. Cynthia Wesley, 14. 

. . .  

Today, we lift up the names of African Americans whose lives were cut short by systemic racism and police brutality in our society, but the list does not end here.  

We mourn with the family and loved ones of these individuals and countless others who have been lost.  

Say their names.  

We applaud protesters in Charlotte and across the country who are braving a pandemic and taking to the streets to call for real and lasting change so that our national principle of “life, liberty and justice for all” rings true for all people in the United States—not just Americans of a certain skin tone. 

These murders are tragically nothing new or shocking for our neighbors, clients, colleagues and friends. Both despair and anger have festered for generations as Black people have endured intentional, targeted violence and subjugation without recourse, all while persistently fighting for their right to be valued as equal human beings.  

Now that a spotlight burns on their plight for all to see, we as Americans can no longer turn a blind eye, and the events of the past two weeks should not be a surprise given how we got here. 

The society we know today has been shaped by generations of policies that have deliberately perpetuated the notion that some lives are more valuable than others.  

We’ve seen countless instances where white people have used our white supremacist societal norms to their advantage and abused our police system to further intimidate and terrorize Black people. 

The most recent example happened in New York City’s Central Park last week, when a white woman called the police claiming she was being threatened by a Black bird watcher after he asked her to follow the park’s regulations and put her dog on a leash. This story echoes the calculated actions and tactics used to justify the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. 

These same protections are not afforded to Black people as demonstrated when Atatiana Jefferson’s family turned to police for a wellness check on their loved one. Instead, she was murdered.  

To be clear: Black lives matter.  

Our nation was built by the hands of enslaved and exploited people, and that legacy lives on today. The wealth and power our country enjoys comes at the expense of deliberate exclusion, imprisonment, and marginalization of Black people and other people of color.  

This system enables the murders of these innocent individuals to take place. And it also actively promotes vast disparities in income, health, housing and employment that cut people of color off from socioeconomic opportunity. 

As our country burns, we must recognize that we started the fire. 

Dismantling our racist system starts with condemning police brutality head on while speaking truth to power. It is our communal responsibility to hold our public authorities accountable to ensure this need is met. We need to seek to understand and embrace the differences that enrich our community rather than use them as a means to divide.  

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, we believe that ALL people should have access to legal assistance and resources that ensure stability and promote opportunity. We fight for equal justice under the law every day. Racial justice and equity are inherent to this work. 

Black people were not contemplated when the phrase “justice for all” was originally coined. Equal justice for all is impossible to realize without eradicating the systemic racism that pervades our society. 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy condemns the police brutality we have witnessed. We stand with those exercising their right to protest in efforts to enact significant change.  

We are doing a lot of introspection. We are listening. We are trying to recognize our individual blind spots to our own ignorance. We are trying to understand, and we will continue to work toward our mission of pursuing justice, every day, with all we have. 

All of us have a role to play in building a more just community.

Will you answer the call? 

COVID-19 Updates: Home Preservation

Home Preservation

Rent and Utility Assistance: Charlotte City Council recently approved an additional $8 million dollars of CARE’s Act funding to allow the expansion of the current Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program (RAMP Charlotte). This program includes rent and utility relief for tenants, long-term hotel guests, homeowners with mortgages, and hotel and property managers. Individuals who earn 80 percent or below the Area Media Income (AMI) who face a COVID-19 hardship and cannot make housing payments can apply for rent or mortgage assistance.

The Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program is a new statewide initiative that may provide rent and utility assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income renters experiencing financial hardship due to the economic effects of COVID-19. HOPE will provide rent and utility assistance for renters that:

  • Have been affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic
  • Have a household income that is 80% of the area median income or lower
  • Occupy the rental property as their primary home, and
  • Are behind on their rent or utilities when they apply.

Read more and apply here.

General Evictions: (September 10th) Evictions proceedings can and are taking place in Mecklenburg county. However, the federal government, through the Center for Disease Control, has announced a temporary halt on evictions through December 31, 2020 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Under the order, landlords and property owners are prohibited from evicting certain tenants impacted by COVID-19. Learn more about the order and qualifications here.

Additionally, according to Gov. Cooper’s executive order, your landlord is required to give you six months to pay rent owed between May 30th and June 20th, 2020. During the six-month period, your landlord cannot move to evict you based on non-payment of the June rent. This does not prevent the landlord to for moving to evict a tenant for a reason other than non-payment. Additionally, a landlord may be able to evict a tenant for rent that is owed prior to May 30th.

The Order’s evictions moratorium:

  • Would prevent landlords from initiating summary ejections or other eviction proceedings against a tenant for nonpayment or late payment of rent;
  • Prevents landlords from assessing late fees or other penalties for late or nonpayment;
  • Prevents the accumulation of additional interest, fees, or other penalties for existing late fees while this Order is in effect;
  • Requires landlords to give tenants a minimum of six months to pay outstanding rent;
  • Requires leases to be modified to disallow evicting tenants for reasons of late or nonpayments; and
  • Makes clear that evictions for reasons related to health and safety can take place.

Utilities: (July 30th) Gov. Cooper’s moratorium on utility shutoffs ended July 29th, 2020. Some utility companies can now begin the process to shut off your utilities (water, gas, and electric) for non-payment. Phone and internet access were not included in the moratorium against utility shut offs.

Gov. Cooper’s utility shutoff moratorium still:

  • Prohibits billing or collection of late fees, penalties, and other charges for failure to pay for utility bills owed from March 31st to July 29th, 2020; and
  • Extends repayment plans at least six months, and sets the default term for repayment to six months for cases when the utility and customer cannot agree on the terms of an extended repayment plan.

Read more about the Gov. Cooper’s moratorium on utility shutoffs.

However, the NC Utility Commission has ordered all utility companies under its jurisdiction to not resume disconnections before September 1st, 2020. This effectively extends the moratorium on utility shut offs for one month for some, but not all, companies and NC residents. This order also extends the grace period for repayment of utilities owed from six to twelve months, doubling Gov. Cooper’s order. This includes utility providers such as Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas but does not include municipal or county systems.

Click here for a list of utility providers under the NC Utility Commission’s jurisdiction. Read more about the NC Utility Commission’s extension.

Evictions from hotels/motels: (April 3) N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein is protecting residents who live in hotels or motels as their primary residence from being evicted by reminding businesses that they need to follow the law by not allowing self-help remedies such as changing the locks in order to evict a tenant. New eviction proceedings are on hold in N.C. courts (see below). Stein reminded businesses that trying to evict guests without a court order is a violation of N.C. landlord-tenant and consumer protection laws.

Read more

Eviction and Foreclosure in N.C. Courts: From the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court, Mecklenburg County: “Given ongoing concerns about COVID-19, a soft reopening of Mecklenburg County Courts will begin on June 1, 2020.  Mecklenburg County Courts will employ a phased-in-approach in which courtroom operations will expand based on priorities set forth by Chief Justice Beasley.

Mecklenburg has recently started to conduct foreclosure hearings:

  • If your loan is federally-backed, you should contact the attorney handling the foreclosure and tell them about the foreclosure protection through August 31, 2020.  Plan to attend the hearing unless you are told it is being continued.
  • If you have requested a Forbearance and get a hearing notice, contact the foreclosure attorney and let them know and tell the Court hearing officer that you have a forbearance.
  • If you have health issues, contact the Court and the attorney handling the foreclosure right away about continuing the hearing.  You cannot enter the Courthouse with any COVID-related symptoms. 
  • Wear a mask and check requirements of entering courthouse here:  Mecklenburg Courthouse Modified Operations
  • Contact CCLA Consumer Protection Program with questions or concerns at 704-376-1600.

What to Know about Mortgages and Mortgage Relief: (July 15th)

Pay Your Mortgage if You Can Afford It

  • Payments skipped will still become due.  Depending upon your mortgage, you may not be happy with the repayment options offered; in some cases you may have to pay a large lump sum.  Also, mortgage companies will make a mistake when processing repayment plans – these errors can be very difficult to fix.

If you Cannot Pay your Mortgage, there may be relief available 

  • Not all mortgages qualify for the same payment relief.  See below.
  • Requesting a Forbearance is better than letting your loan go into default.  Once in default, other fees begin to accumulate on the account.
  • Under federal law, the foreclosure process cannot start until you are more than 120 days past due.  COVID forbearances/moratoriums may extend that time for certain mortgages. 

“Federally-backed” mortgages have certain rights under the federal CARES Act

What Loans Are Federally Backed?

  • FHA/HUD mortgages and HECM Reverse Mortgages
    • For FHA loans, that  may be indicated on your mortgage statement. Or, check the first page of your closing documents from when you bought the house (HUD-1 statement).
  • VA (Veteran’s Administration) mortgages
  • Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac backed mortgages
  • USDA (Department of Agriculture)
  • A list of federal loan agencies, their policies, and contact information is here

What rights do homeowners with “federally-backed” mortgages have?

  • First, your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you until at least August 31, 2020. The CARES Act and guidance from Fannie/Freddie, FHA, VA, and USDA, prohibit mortgage companies from beginning a foreclosure, or from finalizing a foreclosure judgment or sale. This protection began on March 18, 2020, and extends through at least August 31, 2020.  CFPB link
  • Federally-backed mortgage companies must provide a Forbearance, if requested, due to financial hardship experienced during the COVID-19 emergency period.  You should not have to provide additional documents other than the request affirming your hardship.
  • Forbearance plans provide borrowers with payment relief for up to 12-months and suspend borrower late charges and penalties. It also suspends reporting to credit bureaus of past due payments of borrowers who are in a forbearance plan as a result of COVID-19 hardships..
  • You are eligible even if your loan was delinquent before the COVID emergency. If you have experienced a hardship during the COVID emergency, the forbearance should be granted once requested.
  • All forbearance payments will have to be paid back.  Do not ask for one if you do not need one.
  • A forbearance must be granted up to 180 days.  Then a borrower can request another 180 days.

Additional assistance available to homeowners with “federally backed” mortgages:

  • Through its Disaster Response Network, Fannie Mae also offers additional help to homeowners with a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage,, including:
    • A needs assessment and personalized recovery plan;
    • Help requesting financial relief from insurance, servicers, and other sources; and
    • Web resources and ongoing guidance from experienced disaster relief advisors
  • Homeowners can find out if they have a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage and access to the Disaster Response Network here.
  • Homeowners can contact Fannie Mae directly at 1-800-2FANNIE (1-800-232-6643). Get more information about your options.

What if I don’t have a federally-backed mortgage but still have a financial hardship?

  • Contact your mortgage company as soon as possible.  Many private mortgage companies are also granting forbearances.  Try by phone, or on the online website if you cannot get through.
  • Make sure you ask about and understand the repayment options at the end of the forbearance.  Ask that it be sent to you in writing.
  • Ask for assistance in writing about the repayment and loss mitigation options available to you if you do not have a federally-backed mortgage.
  • Contact a free HUD-housing Counselor.  Never pay up front for mortgage assistance.  Make sure any housing counselor is HUD-certified here:  HUD free counselors and info

What about property taxes and homeowner’s insurance?

  • If your account is escrowed (meaning the taxes and insurance are paid through your mortgage payment, the mortgage company should continue to pay them during the forbearance.
  • Borrowers who do not have an escrow account should continue to pay their property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, and other home-related items directly, if possible.

Problems with COVID Forbearances or other mortgage company issues

  • Borrowers who believe they have been improperly denied a forbearance or have other problems with their servicer should submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau using its complaint portal.
  • Borrower’s whose mortgage companies are regulated by the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks can file a complaint here NCCOB complaint

Other Resources:

NCLC Coronavirus:  What Borrowers Need to Know

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:  CFPB Covid Mortgage Info

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COVID-19 Updates: Community Stability

Community Stability

Updates from the City of Charlotte

U.S. Census: The U.S. Census count is still underway though the U.S. Census Bureau has adjusted 2020 Census operations to accommodate participation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes include:

  • Self-Response deadline (online, mail, phone) has been moved to October 15.
  • Door-to-door counts by Census workers has ended.

Respondents are urged to respond to the count online if possible.

Jury trials in Mecklenburg County will resume the week of November 16th. You should have received updated court dates or jury summons if applicable to your situation. (October 21)

N.C. Courts delay cases, will reopen June 1, 2020: (May 21) Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issues an order outlining how courts will expand operations after June 1 and new procedures that will go into effect. Read the order.

(May 20) From the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court, Mecklenburg County: “Given ongoing concerns about COVID-19, a soft reopening of Mecklenburg County Courts will begin on June 1, 2020.  Mecklenburg County Courts will employ a phased-approach in which courtroom operations will expand based on priorities set forth by Chief Justice Beasley.

Mecklenburg County Courts will implement safety protocols to restrict the number of courts operating and the number of occupants in the courtrooms.  Such protocols are necessary to ensure the safety of court personnel, court partners and the public.

Court docket sizes will be significantly reduced and Court partners and litigants should expect some delay in the scheduling of court matters.”

(April 3) N.C. Chief Justice Cherie Beasley issued an order postponing court cases to June 1.

Exceptions include:

  • Domestic violence hearings for protective orders
  • If the proceeding can be conducted remotely
  • Cases where there is a constitutional or statutory right to an immediate hearing.

Read the full order here

(March 16) North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cherie Beasley directed local courts to postpone most cases in district and superior court for at least 30 days beginning March 17, 2020. Exceptions include:

  • Domestic violence hearings for protective orders
  • Cases with trials already in progress
  • Cases where there is a constitutional or statutory right to an immediate hearing.

Read more.

Updated Mecklenburg County Courthouse Operations Schedule: (March 26) English Español

CATS Service: (March 25) CATS will make modifications to transit service to accommodate the current demand. By operating modified service, CATS will continue providing the community access to essential daily needs, front-line jobs and medical services. All service will be FREE during this time.  These changes are effective until further notice. Read more.

Unemployment Insurance Executive Order: (March 17) N.C. Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order to expand unemployment benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19. The order lifts some restrictions on unemployment benefits to help workers unemployed due to COVID-19 and those who are employed but will not receive a paycheck. Additionally, it adds benefit eligibility for those out of work because they have the virus or must care for someone who is sick.

For example, workers who lose income due to tips or scheduled work hours, but are still employed, would be eligible for benefits because of this Executive Order. Among other changes:

  • It removes the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment payment for those workers who lose their jobs;
  • It removes the requirement that a person must be actively looking for another job during this time when many potential employers are closed and social distancing guidelines are in effect.
  • It allows employees who lose their jobs or, in certain cases have their hours reduced due to Covid-19 to apply for unemployment benefits.
  • It directs that employers will not be held responsible for benefits paid as a direct result of these COVID-19 claims.
  • It waives the requirement that people must apply for benefits in person; workers can apply for benefits online or by phone.

Read more.

Public utilities, internet service will remain available to some customers: (July 29) The N.C. Utilities Commission put out an order suspending service disconnections during COVID-19 outbreak until September 1st, 2020 to ensure residents maintain access to water, power and gas. Click here to read more.

Mecklenburg Clerk of Court Adjusts Hours: (March 16) The Mecklenburg County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office will reduce hours of operation and staff availability. They will be open to the public Monday through Friday, between 9 am and noon. This scheduled change will be in effect for at least the next 30 days. Read more.

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