The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Americans causing damage to our economy, record high layoffs, and unemployment at staggering levels. Experts agree that the best solution to fight off the pandemic is by starving the virus of a new host via asking people to stay at home. But how can we ask people to stay at home when we are not protecting their ability to have a home to stay in? Cancelling rent is not only a financial issue, it’s a public health imperative.
During the first month following stay-at-home orders it was reported by real-estate firms that a third of Americans couldn’t pay their April rent. These figures are projected to be even worse in May now that many families’ savings have run dry and even more are jobless. We live in a country where a majority of Americans would endure severe financial hardships with an unexpected $400 expense. We were in a housing crisis before the pandemic, with rents in our region rising at triple the rate of wages, leaving too many families one major life event from being homeless. What happens when thousands of people experience that major life event all at the same time? This is the threat that looms following the pandemic.
Although the federal government has issued stimulus checks, $1,200 is nowhere near enough to pay rent in the Central Coast, nor did all taxpayers receive a check, including undocumented community members. Governor Newsom issued a statewide eviction moratorium in March 2020. But this temporary freeze on evictions is holding back an avalanche of back rent that will come crashing down just as we begin to recover from the pandemic. This will push countless local families out of their homes unless state lawmakers take action to forgive rents and mortgage payments.
Eviction moratoriums have only pressed the pause button on a looming housing crisis. Unprecedented times calls for unprecedented measures. We urge our state lawmakers to cancel rent and mortgage payments through the duration of the public health crisis. People should be more concerned about their well-being and health than paying for rent.
Right now, is the crucial window before the eviction moratorium is lifted to prevent a disastrous wave of homelessness. Banks and corporations have been bailed out, it’s time for the people to also be bailed out as well.
Eder Gaona-Macedo is executive director of Future Leaders of America; Maricela Morales is executive director of Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy.