Congress Finally Addresses Housing Issues During COVID-19 Pandemic

After weeks and weeks of bickering and infighting between Republicans and Democrats over what should be included and left out of a Coronavirus stimulus package, the two parties seem to have agreed earlier this afternoon, Thursday, March 26, on a bipartisan bill that’s supposedly heading toward the finalization process. Dubbed the “$2.2 Trillion Stabilization Package” for now, this bill will allocate more than $12 billion in federal housing funding and renters’ assistance if it manages to pass. One policy maker suggested, “Americans cannot shelter…if they have no shelter,” so this is an important measure taken.

While people from all over America are suffering now, politicians recognize that those hit the hardest are the areas with the most expensive housing markets, which are typically big cities. Confounding the problem is the fact that these areas also seem to have the most layoffs and shuttering of businesses, making it doubly harder for residents to afford their rent and mortgages. San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York will likely end up receiving the bulk of this money. How rural America takes that has yet to be seen, though it’s expected they won’t be too thrilled about big city residents, who already make a lot more money, being bailed out, while they’re again ignored.

Though not ignored entirely, would be the silver lining here. Money will still be distributed, just not as much as what larger, more expensive areas are receiving.

The stimulus package proposal actually made it through the Senate Thursday, with the special interests removed from earlier incarnations, and will be finalized en route to President Trump’s desk for official signature on Friday. Over $2 billion is allocated for rental assistance, while nearly $700 million is being given to residents of public housing. The reason public housing residents aren’t receiving more of a share is that they’re unlikely to lose their housing anyway, since it’s government who control it, and not banks or private mortgage lenders and landlords.

Perhaps more important than the monetary amount is the temporary moratorium on evictions this bill handles. With this measure, banks and mortgage lenders and landlords must do their part during the crisis and suffer some losses as well. They will not be legally allowed to evict tenants for nonpayment, nor to foreclose on homes, for residents of federally subsidized apartments with mortgages that are federally backed.

The Likelihood of the Measure Passing As-Is

It seems very likely that this will end up on the President’s desk very shortly. After Pelosi and Schumer relented on their pet projects being shoved into a 1,400-page bill, both parties were able to actually get something done. However, there is a gargantuan group glaringly missing from this stimulus package: Rural, or “middle” America. Inner cities, which house the bulk of public-assistance renters, and those of a higher income bracket in big metropolitan cities will be safe and guided through by government during this crisis.

Though none of the literature put out about this proposal suggests that people in the Appalachia mountains, the Midwest or the flat-lands of America, aka “Flyover country,” will receive any of the same help. While low-income, impoverished residents of public housing are guaranteed to not be evicted, not a word has been spoken about the hundred-plus million other Americans, living check to check, who pay their own freight in the nation and struggle mightily to keep their rent paid. Not a word was spoken about how to ensure these millions of individuals didn’t end up on the streets.

So while the grandstanding of this may have the appearance of helping Americans, it’s still a measure that is decidedly playing favorites with two very distinct groups on opposite ends of the spectrum: The upper-middle class and the impoverished. The working-class seems to be on their own, per usual. They will receive an approximation of a tacit apology when politicians need votes. But as far as actual Americans needing assistance, it appears as if they still have to wait their turn behind the special interest voting blocs of each party.

Lessons to Take Away

If there is any lesson to be taken away by government’s typical playing of favorites, it appears to be that unless you’re in some specially protected group or class, or have wealth already, do not get sick and do not lose your job, because your government will not help you. They’ll take your taxes; they just won’t help after the fact. This is driven home by older adults receiving only $50 million, people with disabilities receiving a miniscule $15 million, yet tribal groups receiving over $300 million, when tribal lands are already sovereign and not under the same sorts of regulations as other Americans.

Middle Americans should hope this changes, as this bill passing as-is offers them zero relief yet will still come calling for their taxes to pay for it.

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