Evictions Caused by the COVID-19 Economic Crisis Could Make the Pandemic Worse

At the height of the closures instituted by local and state authorities, more than 30 million Americans lost their jobs. While some of those employers have since reopened and called back their workers, more than 13 million Americans are still out of work. The federal government provided temporary pandemic unemployment assistance, and that ran out at the beginning of August. Not everyone qualified for the unemployment compensation, including gig workers, freelancers, part-time workers and others. The result of all this is a looming eviction crisis. Read on to learn about the pending evictions and how they could make the COVID-19 pandemic worse, creating a positive feedback loop that isn't positive at all.

Why So Many People Are Facing Eviction

The main reason why so many people are facing eviction is that they were already living paycheck-to-paycheck. When their paychecks stopped because of the COVID-19 closures issued by mayors and governors, they had no income. Unemployment compensation takes a while to start. Although most people whose applications were accepted got backdated funds to the date they became unemployed, some people had to wait a month or longer until their checks arrived in their bank accounts or mail boxes. Meanwhile, they had their usual bills to pay. At the same time as employers shut down, grocery prices skyrocketed. Food limits were common, and shortages of milk, bread and toilet paper were found throughout the United States. People used their funds for food, fuel, utilities and medicine, hoping their landlords would understand.

Why Landlords Filed Eviction Notices

Landlords are people, too. Independent and private landlords don't have multiple units for rent. Some might just rent out one house or a duplex. Others live in one unit and rent the other, relying on the income to cover part of the mortgage. They have mortgages and taxes to pay on those units. If they're not getting rental income, they might not have the money to pay the mortgage or property taxes on the unit. Landlords aren't responsible for providing free housing. If tenants don't pay, the landlord is within their rights to initiate evictions.

Actions Taken By Government

Many state governors instituted holds on evictions for 30, 60 or even 90 days beginning in April 2020. The governors worked with major banks and financial institutions so that landlords wouldn't go into foreclosure if they couldn't pay their mortgages on rental properties. Banks also worked with homeowners/occupants who lost their jobs and were dealing with possible foreclosure proceedings. Banks essentially put payments on hold, extending due dates without added fees or penalties.

What Happens When Courts Start Processing Eviction Cases

Those temporary holds on evictions have expired. The courts have reopened, and they're starting to process all of those cases that were initiated during the spring and summer months of this year. When the courts start processing cases, things may move more quickly than the tenant would like. The tenant may only have a few days to come up with the money they owe. In some cases, the client gets no chance, and the court orders the sheriff to evict the tenant.

Where People Will Go If They Get Evicted

Another problem related to COVID-19 is the closure of homeless shelters and shelters for at-risk women and youth. To maintain social distancing, capacity decreased at the shelters that are open. The economic crisis decreased the amount of funding for temporary shelter in hotels. There is also less funding for rental assistance. People who get evicted may have to stay with a friend or family member if they can't find space in a shelter. They might need to use a weekly hotel. The street is the place of last resort for people who are evicted.

How Evictions Could Worsen the Spread of COVID-19

Crowded housing conditions make it easier for people to spread germs. If a family of three or four people is evicted and moves into a one- or two-bedroom apartment that already houses three or four people, there won't be a way to practice social distancing. Shelters may face a choice between allowing families to come in and maintaining the CDC's recommendations for social distancing. If a person ends up living on the street, their risk of all types of health problems is worse. They won't have access to a place to wash their hands, cook food or wash clothing, which increases their risk of infectious diseases.

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