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Sisolak says relief for Nevada homeowners, renters in the works

Updated March 27, 2020 - 6:26 pm

CARSON CITY — Relief for homeowners and renters could be coming soon for Nevadans struggling financially amid the economic upheaval caused by the new coronavirus, Gov. Steve Sisolak said in an interview Friday.

Sisolak said that his office, as well as the attorney general and state treasurer, are in discussions with banks “as we speak,” and that they hope to have something in place soon. He said officials are also working on protections for renters, a move that other states have taken to prevent landlords from evicting tenants during an economic downturn that could see 14 million jobs lost nationwide by summer, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

“People have been out of work for a couple of weeks now,” Sisolak said in a phone interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We need to give them some sense of security.”

Last week Sisolak ordered all nonessential businesses in the state, including casinos, gyms and beauty salons, to shut down until at least April 16.

Nevada reported the highest number of unemployment insurance claims in state history last week, with initial claims soaring to more than 92,000, compared with the previous week’s 6,356. The state’s previous record was 8,945, which happened in January 2009, during the Great Recession.

[ Some weekly Las Vegas renters are facing eviction, even with a freeze ]

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that five major banks and nearly 200 state-chartered banks and credit unions had pledged to provide relief for those who couldn’t pay their mortgages, including offering 90-day grace periods, ensuring there would be no negative credit impacts from the relief. He also imposed a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions by financial institutions.

Some states like New York and Kentucky, along with a growing list of cities, have put a halt on renter evictions during the outbreak. In Nevada, some courts have temporarily stopped processing evictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, but that hasn’t prevented them from happening elsewhere in the state.

Sisolak also addressed the growing public health impact of the virus, saying Nevada lacks necessary medical supplies like masks, personal protective gear for health care workers, ventilators and COVID-19 testing kits. Those shortages are shared by nearly every state, which makes it even harder to procure such equipment.

“Everyone wants more. More money, more (personal protective gear), more ventilators. Every governor is asking for the same stuff,” Sisolak said.

Nevada’s relatively small population and smaller pool of resources have added to the challenge, he added.

That’s where the private and philanthropic sectors have stepped in, Sisolak said.

He pointed to the tens of thousands of highly sought N95 masks and gloves that have been donated to Southern Nevada hospitals by the Nevada Chinese Association. He noted similar donations that have come from some of the state’s largest resort operators, including Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts.

Wynn announced Friday that it had donated 240,000 N95 equivalent, CDC-approved respirator masks, 600,000 surgical masks and 500,000 pairs of medical gloves to hospitals throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

And while Sisolak has said that the state has received zero testing kits for COVID-19 from the federal government, despite repeated requests, the state again benefited from donations from the private sector to help fill that gap.

He said Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson donated several thousand test kits to Nevada. Sands spokesman Ron Reese said the company donated roughly 1,900 kits, transporting them from China on one of the company’s private planes.

Those test kits, Sisolak said, “saved a lot of lives.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead @reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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