My Economy

The landlord who stepped up in the ‘hour of need’

Bennett Purser and Jonathan Frewin Aug 3, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Tenants of this apartment complex in Kenya's Nyandarua County don't have to pay rent for four months as they navigate the coronavirus crisis. Courtesy of Michael Munene
My Economy

The landlord who stepped up in the ‘hour of need’

Bennett Purser and Jonathan Frewin Aug 3, 2020
Tenants of this apartment complex in Kenya's Nyandarua County don't have to pay rent for four months as they navigate the coronavirus crisis. Courtesy of Michael Munene
HTML EMBED:
COPY

With skyrocketing unemployment, workers everywhere risk being evicted from their homes. Not just in the U.S., but around the world people are struggling to pay their rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

Understanding this is crucial to Michael Munene’s work. He is a landlord in Kenya’s Nyandarua County, with around 30 low-income tenants.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Kenya, most of Munene’s tenants were laid off from their jobs. As this was happening, he called a meeting with the occupants to announce his plans to help them get through this.

Michael Munene (Courtesy of Munene)

“When I called for the meeting, even though they know me well, they were expecting bad news. They thought I wanted to increase the rent or tell them to vacate and look for somewhere else,” Munene said. “So when I told them to not pay rent for four months, some started getting a bit confused because they could not understand that reality.”

No rent would be collected for the months of May through August. The tenants were in shock at his generosity. And despite the financial loss, he knows firsthand the hardship they are facing from the coronavirus.

“I found that this [was] the opportunity to help those in need because there was a time I was a tenant. So I know how it feels to be a tenant and how they struggle to pay for the rent.”

A sign posted in the apartment complex notifying tenants of their holiday from rent payments. (Courtesy of Michael Munene)

For Munene, what one has in the bank is not important. What matters is what we can do to support fellow human beings in their “hour of need.”


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COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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