COVID-19

Millions of renters face holiday evictions — and long-term debt

Kimberly Adams Dec 9, 2020
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Renters and housing advocates attend a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions during the coronavirus pandemic, in Los Angeles, California, on Aug. 21, 2020. Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Millions of renters face holiday evictions — and long-term debt

Kimberly Adams Dec 9, 2020
Heard on:
Renters and housing advocates attend a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions during the coronavirus pandemic, in Los Angeles, California, on Aug. 21, 2020. Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
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As bad as this pandemic is, the economic consequences are set to get a lot worse, particularly when it comes to housing.

Local eviction moratoriums are winding down all over the country, and the federal one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ends on Dec. 31. According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey they’ve been doing during the pandemic, about 33% of people in the U.S. are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. And rental debt is piling up.

Paying rent used to be no big deal for 65-year-old Graciela Wade in Chicago. She’s retired and on a fixed income, but was getting help with bills from her granddaughter and her granddaughter’s then-girlfriend.

Then the pandemic hit.

“But with my girls losing their jobs, and me not being able to keep up with everything, just makes it worse,” she said.

Wade hasn’t paid rent since July and is now $3,500 behind and at risk of eviction. Just like about 14 million other households, said Emily Benfer, who leads the American Bar Association’s task force on COVID-19-related evictions.

“The mere fact of filing actually plummets credit scores, and it precludes people from seeking a mortgage in the future or a car title or even seeking employment,” Benfer said.

Plus even after someone is evicted, the debt stays with them. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia estimates more than a million households owe over $5,000 in rent.

“We will see the impacts of debt owed by renters across this country for years to come,” said Deborah Thrope, deputy director at the National Housing Law Project.

“It’s going to absolutely slow the economic recovery, and we know that there are millions of people at risk of eviction prior to the pandemic, and that number has only grown,” Thrope said.

If Congress does pass more COVID legislation, she said, it needs to address the estimated tens of billions of dollars in past-due rent.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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