As millions of Americans continue to go without additional stimulus from the government while the big-wigs in D.C. duke it out, the bills are backing up; leaving many renting Americans to wonder one simple question: how are they going to avoid eviction come January 1st?
I myself am staring down the business-end of this question as my bank account is currently in the middle of impersonating Houdini. The year before, after traumatically losing everything placed my life into much clearer focus I chose to take a huge risk and pursue my writing full time.
I had a mission, I had an objective, had savings, and I had a supportive employed husband also pursuing his dream: surely it was time for us to get to work. And it was.
We were able to get by, paying bills and rent on time like clockwork as we worked toward our objectives: my husband producing an R&B album 34 years in the making, and me pulling stories from the ether with the intention of becoming an international best seller. Any extra expenses were held down by my husband’s income as a barber and of course, the American safety net, a credit card.
But then COVID-19 happened, and suddenly, with 3 small children in the house, it was no longer safe for my husband to interact daily with as many people as he was (especially the ones who refused to wear masks down here in the great state of Georgia). Once that stream dried, the others began following suit.
We were lucky enough to receive a stimulus check and a couple extra dollars a month by the grace of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, but again things were evaporating fast. And now after 5 years of paying all my bills on time and in full, I’m left asking myself: how the hell are we going to make it to next month?
And I’m not the only one.
With 709,000 workers filing for jobless claims last week alone, and millions more still collecting unemployment assistance while praying for another round of stimulus talks to produce a cash infusion for them, the outcome isn’t looking very pretty. According to CNN, with bills and rent backing up on cash strapped Americans, millions of people are going to be out on the street come January, when many of the protections that allowed them to keep their homes this year will expire.
A frightening idea considering that while we’ve witnessed housing inequality and unemployment during our lifetime, this is going to be on a level we have not experienced in quite some time. This coupled with a virus that just won’t get under control (WEAR A MASK!) is something right out of the dystopian landscapes that populated small and big screens in the early aughts and teens of this millennium.
I wish I could say this was the worst that we could expect, but there’s more.
Due to Wall Street’s financial wizardry (and lack of learning from previous mistakes), those evictions are going to have more than a personal effect on the economy. After the housing market collapse in ’08, tons of vacant properties were sitting on the marketplace. Wall Street saw that as an opportunity to snatch up houses and jump into the landlord game, since it didn’t look like traditional housing and mortgages were going to pick up anytime soon. And I must stress this part, they decided it would be a good idea to create pools of securities based on the collective ownership of these rental units (which include commercial units like strip malls and apartment complexes as well as single family residential units being rented out). For those of you unfamiliar with what that means, they basically got together and created giant pools of I.O.U.’s backed by people’s rent checks.
So when the wave of residential and commercial evictions gets rolling– and it will because the current Congress can’t get it together, nor will the current President accept defeat and stop blocking the transition of power—not only will we have an issue with people needing to find a place to call home, we could also be face to face with an economic bubble bursting (though the Fed has already stepped in and may continue to do so), far greater than the one we only just survived less than 11 years ago. Add to the mix rolling unemployment– as consumer spending will eventually begin to take the hit as well– tossed in with this hellspawn of a virus, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Honestly 2020, with its plethora of kerfuffles, clusterfucks and just plain awfulness, is just a warm-up for a much more difficult second act. I don’t know how we are going to face the crisis to come. I pray our leaders are able to get it together in time to tip the scales in our favor and mitigate the hardship to come. Then again, many of these problems coming to a head now, began under their leadership, all while the people (and research) have been trying to tell them to fix it (healthcare, unemployment, housing and education inequality, homelessness, etc.) for years.
We are at the dawn of a historical new era my friends, one that stands to shape how we move forward not just as a country but as a species. And it ain’t looking too good right now, but just remember, it’s always darkest before dawn. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
If you or your loved ones are facing possible evictions please visit the CDC website and obtain the declaration from the site to give to your landlord. You qualify to use the declaration so long as you make less than $99,000 annually ($198,000 for joint filers), received a stimulus check, and are unable to make full rent payments due to loss of wages, layoffs or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses. See the full qualifications here. This declaration is applicable nationwide, though you are still obligated to pay your rent once the order expires and the landlord can call it all due at that time and your landlord can evict you for non-payment related issues (e.g. vandalism, drug use, lease violations etc.). If your landlord gives you a hard time, contact your local legal aid to see what additional help you have available to you.
CDC declaration form:
Photo Credit: Johnathan Kho on Unsplash
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