The numbers were especially high for families with children, with 21 percent falling behind on rent, and among families of color. About 29 percent of Black families and 17 percent of Hispanic renters were behind, the Census Bureau reported. A separate analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, looking at people who had jobs before the pandemic, found 1.3 million such households are now an average of $5,400 in debt on rent and utilities, after those people had lost jobs and their family’s income plunged.
Economists say these data points show the failure of the U.S. safety net during this crisis, which is inflicting economic pain that will hurt families for years.
The 20 million Americans receiving some kind of unemployment aid have seen their weekly checks dwindle since August, making it harder to pay bills. About 12 million unemployed are slated to have their benefits cut off entirely at the end of the year, because lawmakers have yet to agree on extending relief for the unemployed.
“The tidal wave is coming. It’s going to be really horrible for people,” said Charlie Harak, a senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “The number of people who are now 90 days behind and the dollars they are behind are growing quite significantly.”
Nashville mother Nikki Cornwell is $4,000 behind on rent and fears she will be evicted right after Christmas. Her landlord filed the paperwork already, and her court date is set for Jan. 5 — just after the federal eviction moratorium is set to expire.
“I am behind on my rent. I will get evicted soon with my kids who are in virtual school and need Internet,” said Cornwell, who lives with her mom and two kids. “I’ve had bad moments, but never anything like this.”
Cornwell, 36, lost her job in March at a factory that packages tea. She contracted the coronavirus in May. One fearful night she called 911 because she felt she couldn’t breathe. She has mostly recovered but still can’t smell anything. She had a job offer last month, but it got rescinded as coronavirus cases soared and the company decided to pull back on hires. She was getting $275 a week in unemployment, but that just ended. She has pawned jewelry and her son’s beloved PlayStation to pay for food.
“This is like a Charles Dickens novel,” said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association. “It’s an evolving story of how people at the bottom are suffering.”
Many unemployed Americans were able to delay paying rent this fall under eviction moratoriums. But those protections end soon, and landlords and utilities are eager to get paid. Economists warn low-income families won’t be able to suddenly pay back three to six months of rent at once.
The federal eviction moratorium is slated to end on Dec. 31, even as coronavirus cases spike and the economic recovery fizzles. Researchers at the Philadelphia Fed say even their conservative forecast warns evictions will…
Go to the news source: Millions of unemployed Americans are over $5,000 behind on rent, utilities