Across the United States, the pandemic continues to worsen. The last few weeks have seen economic indicators slump again after brief and modest recoveries in May and early June. Yet, government policies fail to reflect the increasingly dire realities for tens of millions of Americans, as citizens across the country now teeter on the brink of homelessness in the midst of this economic collapse. The coming wave of evictions will be swift and brutal. Emergency measures put in place to protect renters expired last week, leaving many already vulnerable individuals subject to landlords that have been waiting for months to claim late payments and force the financially insecure from their residences.
The end of the Federal Eviction Moratorium means that any renters with a federally backed mortgage are at risk of eviction, and that category makes up over 25 percent of all US renters.
At the same time, around 25 million Americans saw the end of their federal unemployment benefits, which had been providing out of work individuals with $600 a week on top of state benefits. Even with this extra influx of cash, over 12 million people across the country were behind on rent payments. Without it, the crisis will rapidly intensify.
Even if another round of funding makes its way to the public, desperate Americans will be forced to wait weeks if not months before they feel the relief. In that window without cushion, the US will see a sharp rise in food insecurity, homelessness, and financial ruin for families across the country as they lose their major economic lifeline.
ZeroHedge.com just published a concerning article about what could happen if additional measures are not put in place to continue to help Americans through this economic crisis. Already, they wrote, food banks have experienced massive surges in the number of people showing up for meal assistance, with lines stretching for miles despite crushing summer heat.
This July, over 31 million Americans collected some kind of unemployment benefits. Moreover, a couple weeks ago, 1.416 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits. Not only was this number higher than experts anticipated, but it also represented the first time the tally has increased week over week in more than three months.
Overall, the total number of Americans who have filed new claims for unemployment benefits since the health crisis hit the US has climbed to over 52 million. Approximately one in five Americans are now receiving unemployment checks weekly, and this extra income has largely gone towards basic necessities like rent payments.
Experts claim that state benefits are not nearly enough to keep Americans afloat. After all, the average state check cashes in at only $333 a week. In some states, like Oklahoma, aid runs as low as $100. At that rate, it is near impossible for out of work individuals to afford groceries and transportation, much less keep up with electricity bills and rent payments.
The looming fiscal cliff is one that some experts say we don’t have to go over. If the federal government continues to print billions of dollars, they argue, this money could be pushed back into the economy and the pockets of struggling Americans, easing the eviction and homelessness crises. Housing advocates have been demanding $100 billion in rental assistance, along with an extension of a federal eviction moratorium that would prevent individual states from ending protections early. House Democrats have suggested forgiveness on missed rent payments, but that approach leaves landlords, many of whom depend on rent payments for their own income, to suffer. Ultimately, the US government has no real failsafe option for handling this unprecedented situation. After all, the emergency measures put in place thus far–the federal unemployment benefits, rent protections, eviction moratoriums, and so on–have only pushed a deeper economic collapse further down a line. If a second round of similar policy comes through, it will again delay the worst effects of the crisis, but inevitable devastation is always right around the corner.
In the meantime, the gap between cushions for vulnerable Americans will give us a glimpse into the worst rent crisis we have seen in our lifetimes. Some experts have said the words being used to describe the impending disaster–cliff, avalanche, tsunami–may in fact be an understatement. The only reason we haven’t yet seen an even bigger explosion in the number of evictions nationwide is because the emergency aid pushed it off. In comparison to what’s ahead, the Great Recession of 2007-2009 will look like child’s play.