Many Americans are now at risk of being evicted from their homes.
At least 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past three months as the coronavirus pandemic devastated industries such as retail and hospitality.
Many who lost jobs were unable to pay their rent or utilities, prompting state and federal governments to issue a temporary ban on evictions.
But those bans are set to expire this summer, leaving many people at risk of losing their homes.
The United States is preparing to deal with yet another crisis: an eviction crisis.
On Thursday, Business Insider’s Carmen Reinicke reported that 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last 12 weeks. The mass layoffs and cratering industries have left many unable to pay their rent or utilities due to the lack of income.
Because of the financial crisis, the pandemic has caused, the federal government put a temporary ban on evictions in federally assisted properties, set to last until July 25. Individual states — like Michigan, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania — had their own eviction moratoriums. But those have expired or are set to expire soon, with no extensions in place: Michigan’s moratorium expired on June 11, while Louisiana’s and Pennsylvania’s are expected to expire on June 15 and July 10 respectively.
The extra funds the stimulus bill extended to Americans are also running out. At the end of July, the extra $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits will expire, and there’s no confirmation yet whether additional stimulus checks are coming.
This is the money that has been allowing people who lost their jobs to continue paying their rent, CNBC’s Alicia Adamczyk reports. The loss of extra income, in conjunction with the end of eviction moratoriums, may cause a nationwide eviction crisis — or worse. Aaron Carr, founder and executive director of the Housing Rights Initiative, told CNBC that evicting people right now, during an ongoing pandemic, could turn “a catastrophe into an apocalypse.”
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on renters since the outbreak and subsequent lockdown measures first began in the US in March.
Between March 25 and April 10, the Urban Institute found that almost half of the renters between the ages of 18 and 64 had trouble paying their rent or utilities, were food insecure, or couldn’t afford necessary medical care. And this issue was far more pronounced in some communities than others: In May, the institute found that 25% of Black and Latino renters deferred or could not pay their rent, compared to just 14% of white renters.
Now, Axios, citing the weekly US Census survey which measures the impact the pandemic has had on Americans, reported that one-fifth of adults said in May that they were unsure whether they’d be able to pay their rent or mortgage in June.
As Carr told CNBC, evicting people from their homes could lead them into homelessness or unstable housing, which could raise their risk of catching COVID-19.
Mass evictions could also create a mental health crisis, causing an emotional and mental strain on those who lost their shelter, and who could end up food insecure. Evicting people also generally ruins credit, which may make it harder to find new housing, especially during a pandemic.
All of these factors could result in an “eviction apocalypse,” with widespread evictions leading to a surge in homelessness and rising COVID-19 infections throughout the country.
Even though activists have been pushing for reforms on rental assistance and cancellation, states have been slow to adopt such measures. A glimmer of hope could be the HEROES Act, which has an extension of the nationwide moratorium on evictions that would last 12 months. The bill was passed by the House in May but has stalled in the Senate.