Yves here. I hate to say this, but I warned that a big spike in homelessness and distress was baked in as eviction moratoriums ended, almost exactly coinciding with the ending of funding or emergency top-ups to other income support programs. TheThe Coming Deadly Covid Winter included a section on the grim prospects for tenants in distress:
The year-end double whammy: end of relief and end of eviction ban. A study by the Century Foundation late last week described how 12 million Americans would lose extended unemployment insurance due to the expiration of two pandemic programs and the expiration of full federal funding for an extended benefits program. While 2.9 million of that 12 million might qualify for extended benefits under state programs, those coffers look empty. Congress looks unlikely to step up by the drop-dead date….
As we found with the CARES Act, unemployment insurance is a fast way to get funds to a lot of people. If these various programs lapse, which looks likely, nothing will even start to happen until the Biden Administration takes office, which means that even in an optimistic scenario, the earliest suffering citizens might see some relief is March.
The Trump eviction ban also expires on January 1. Even though some landlords have already tried to circumvent it, or have simply taken to harassing tenants, the real crisis begins after the stay ends.
The current stimulus plans on the table are Scrooge-y: no $1200 stimulus, only $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits. While we did mention above that the earlier $600 a week unemployment supplement got money into workers’ hands faster than stimulus checks, some systems were and are backed up. Readers have complained in comments about considerably overdue payments in California, and I’ve heard of similar arrearages here in Alabama.
Some of the less unlucky will be able to find shelter with relatives and friends, even if it’s in a basement or on a couch. Some will live in cars, a bad proposition much of the year but even worse in colder climes during the winter. Some will wind up in homeless camps, which is guaranteed to spread diseases like hepatitis A, typhus, and even cholera. And that’s before factoring in suicides.
This article from Common Dreams fills in this ugly picture with fresh economic data, showing that 12 million renters are projected to be more than $5000 in arrears on rent and utilities by year end, which in a Covid-savaged economy, is such a deep a hole that only a few will be able to pull themselves out of it.
By Julia Conley, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams
Without a coronavirus relief package centered on helping working families who have lost jobs and watched their savings dwindle amid the pandemic, millions of people are “headed for absolute disaster,” one observer said Monday as Moody’s Analytics reported that 12 million renters are expected to owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities after the new year.
The financial firm reported that $70 billion could be owed to landlords in January, after a federal moratorium on evictions—put in place in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the absence of any action from the Republican-led Senate aimed at helping working people—expires on December 31.
“Renters will owe up to $70 billion in back rent when eviction moratorium expires, more than they can possibly pay… Congress must extend the moratorium and provide rent relief now.”
—Diane Yentel, National Low Income Housing Coalition
According to the Washington Post, many landlords have begun filing paperwork to evict struggling tenants already and others have joined renters in appealing to Congress for significant unemployment benefits and another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans.
Separately from Moody’s, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported in October that 1.3 million households that have faced unemployment during the pandemic owed an average of $5,400 in back payments to landlords and utilities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 29% of Black renters and 17% of Latino renters are behind in payments, and 21% of families with children have been pushed into debt.
Some families have been forced to begin selling their belongings since the Republican-led Senate allowed weekly unemployment benefits of $600 expire in July, according to the Post. Lawmakers on Monday were negotiating a new aid package after a bipartisan group of senators introduced a $908 billion bill last week.
According to Post reporter Jeff Stein, the package currently includes a $300 weekly payment which would be offered only from January to April, with no retroactive payments to help families who owe rent and other payments from recent months. The package includes $25 billion for rental housing assistance—far less than what’s expected to be owed by families in January and only half of what the House Democrats’ HEROES Act includes for low-income renters—and a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not include anything for struggling renters.
“This is like a Charles Dickens novel,” Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, told the Post. “It’s an evolving story of how people at the bottom are suffering.”
Headed for absolute disaster https://t.co/1sHGvS08SH
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) December 7, 2020
Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, called on Congress to extend the current eviction moratorium and provide rent relief to struggling households.
Renters will owe up to $70B in back rent when eviction moratorium expires, more than they can possibly pay. There will be virtually no remaining protections to keep them housed this winter. Congress must extend the moratorium and provide #RentReliefNOW. https://t.co/5ih06dNuJn
— Diane Yentel (@dianeyentel) December 7, 2020
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich highlighted the reports of struggling renters as the latest evidence that Georgia voters must elect two Democrats, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, in the runoff election scheduled for January 5, to give the country any hope of having a Senate which will help working families in the coming year.
Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5850 in back rent and utilities by January.
Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are focused on protecting corporations from liability if their employees get sick.
Georgia: Flip the Senate. We can't go on like this.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) December 7, 2020
“We can’t go on like this,” tweeted Reich.