In the United States, vaccines being widely accessible, employment rising, and federal and state benefits available to millions of people, 100 million people living in rental housing are making a recovery from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, although progress has been made to rebuild economic fatalities, more than 15 million people that live in rental households are behind on their payments, placing these millions at legal risk of eviction.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium ended on July 31st. The moratorium allowed state and local governments to distribute more than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance to those in need. With the expiration of the moratorium, renters may face eviction, civil lawsuits for unpaid rent, and aggressive debt collection, reports the Aspen Institute.
Approximately 22% of Black renters and 17% of Latinx renters are in debt to their landlords, making the threat of eviction particular in these minority communities.
At the outbreak of the pandemic in the United States, the federal and state governments implemented these moratoria to avoid displacement of those who could not pay rent. These policies were instrumental in curbing rising cases and keeping families in their homes. However, there is research to show that states that ended their moratoria in 2020 contributed to more than 400,000 additional COVID cases and 10,000 deaths from the virus.
The aforementioned $46 billion in rental assistance comes in the form of aid to stabilize property owners and tenants through direct payments for back and future rent, utilities, late fees, and other account charges. However, the governments have faced obstacles that make disbursement difficult. Thus, this inefficient process of rental assistance is another barrier for people trying to apply for aid. A study conducted by The Urban Institute that draws on data from the Treasury Department concluded that it would take providers across the United States around 21 months to get funds to renters who are on the verge of being evicted. As evictions can be very quick, there is little efficiency in this type of aid then, which would reach someone up to two years after they have been evicted.
The Aspen Institute has summarized three actions to accelerate the distribution of rental assistance.
- Implement protective policies that stabilize tenants and facilitate the distribution of rental assistance dollars
- Speed the distribution of rental assistance by allowing tenants who live in low-income areas to self-attest their income
- Establish fast lanes to ensure that rental assistance payments arrive before eviction
Eviction creates short and long-term harms to an individual. Eviction creates homelessness, reduction of employment opportunities, reduction of credit scores, limit of access to credit, and harmful effects to a person’s physical, mental health, and educational outcomes for children. Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic includes answering to not only the health of individuals, but to the economic recovery of individuals who have been harmed by the pandemic.