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Advocates worry mass evictions could start on January 1 if stimulus isn't passed soon

Posted at 1:42 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 13:42:36-05

Despite unemployment rates in our country falling from a high of 14.7% in April to 6.9% in October, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition estimates more than 10 million Americans will not be able to make their rent payments through next summer due to economic issues caused by the pandemic.

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition estimates through next June, $100 billion will be needed to help people stay in their homes.

Many states are providing help to renters using leftover CARES Act money. A few weeks ago, Ohio approved $420 million in a second round of funds that counties would allocate to its residents and public organizations based on need. Compare that to states such as Florida, which has distributed $255 million, or Arizona, with $400 million left to spend to help residents. Though the numbers sound large, advocates say it will only make a dent as it is up to the states to decide how much of the leftover money they want to allocate to rent help.

“Part of [the problem] is that even before the pandemic, so in February, millions people were already struggling to pay their rent,” said Martha Gomez, a principal researcher with the Urban Institute, a public policy think-tank.

According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, 18.7 million Americans were struggling to pay rent prior to the pandemic with more than a third of those people, or 7.7 million, spending half of their income on rent each month. Gomez says nothing will help the situation as much as another stimulus package, which Congress has recently said would be its top priority this month.

“The protections that are in place now for renters are really important but ultimately an infusion of cash from the federal government to allow other states and local assistance programs to meet the level of need,” said Gomez.

In September, the CDC enacted an eviction moratorium that gave renters struggling to pay their monthly due some breathing room. The moratorium allowed landlords to file eviction cases in courts, but prevented law enforcement from carrying out eviction orders. When the moratorium ends on December 31, some activists worry there will be a large number of eviction orders carried out at once.

“We may end up on January 1, 2021 with thousands of potential eviction orders,” said Carey DeGenaro, a lawyer with the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.

She says the CDC’s eviction moratorium is a bandage, as it delays the negative outcome, but is not a solution, as it does not address the problem of lost income. She says using the time you have in your place before the moratorium ends could offer more negotiating opportunities with landlords. She says discussing a rent payback schedule could be a smart course of action.