MEMO: As Republicans prepare to party, millions of Americans could lose their homes
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Priorities USA
DATE: August 24, 2020
RE: As Republicans prepare to party, millions of Americans could lose their homes
While Republicans begin to gather tonight at the Republican National Convention to shower Donald Trump with the obsequious adulation his outsized ego demands, tens of millions of American families are on the brink of losing the roofs over their heads — all because the revelers refuse to do anything to stop it.
As the coronavirus crisis rages on across the country and the ensuing economic devastation continues to wreak havoc on people’s pocketbooks, the president and his party quietly allowed the eviction moratorium originally passed into law as part of the CARES Act to expire without a replacement at the end of July.
The moratorium protected millions of tenants — including those living in public housing, using housing vouchers, or living in properties with a federally backed mortgage — from being forced from their homes in the midst of a once-in-a-century global pandemic. But those protections are now gone — and beginning today, August 24, those renters are no longer shielded from eviction.
So as Trump and his enablers pat themselves on the back and spread mountains of misinformation, millions of our fellow citizens will be dealing with the fallout from their catastrophic failures — and living in fear of what comes next for their families.
Trump has put tens of millions of tenants at risk of eviction.
The scope of the impending eviction crisis is staggering. With the nation’s jobless rate at a historically high 10.2%, and with more than one million new unemployment applications filed in 21 of the last 22 weeks, many American families are still barely scraping by nearly six months into the pandemic. And with Trump’s cuts to unemployment benefits now in effect, things are just getting worse.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, roughly four in ten Americans say they’ve had difficulty paying for household expenses in recent months, with roughly half that number saying they’ve fallen behind on their rent or utilities. Money is tight, and many families are being forced to rack up credit card debt in order to keep food on the table, let alone be able to pay their rent. And as with the effects of the pandemic as a whole, these burdens continue to disproportionately fall on communities of color.
A nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau found that more than a quarter of all tenants were unable to pay their rent in July — including 31% of Black renters and 28% of Latino renters. And the outlook for the future is even darker.
According to a Bloomberg analysis of the same Census survey data, 34% of renters indicated they had “little to no confidence” that they would be able to make their August rent payment. In other terms, that figure represents nearly 24 million Americans who are deeply unsure how they’re going to scrape together enough money to keep their homes this month. And now, because of Trump’s callous disregard for the ongoing problems his coronavirus failures have created and stubborn unwillingness to protect his constituents from them, these families are exposed.
All in all, the Aspen Institute estimates that up to 40 million people could be at risk of eviction in the next several months — with communities of color likely to be hit hardest, as they constitute approximately 80% of those that generally face eviction.
Picture it: Tens of millions of men, women, and children. Out on the streets. In the richest country in the world. All because Donald Trump couldn’t be bothered to do his job.
Trump and his Republican enablers are making things even worse for renters.
Sometime over the next several days, you’ll probably hear Trump or one of his sycophantic supporters say something quite different about evictions over the RNC podium. They’ll claim the president is looking out for his people, and probably hold up the executive order he signed a few weeks back as a shining example of his deep empathy for the problems facing America’s working families.
Just like most things that emanate from the mouths of Republican politicians and pundits these days, those will be bald-faced lies.
Not only did Trump’s executive order not extend the CARES Act eviction moratorium, it didn’t really do much of anything at all. As Bloomberg pointed out when he signed it:
“Yet Saturday’s executive order doesn’t renew the federal moratorium on evictions that expired in July. In fact, it doesn’t authorize any new action on evictions or foreclosures at all. Rather it instructs the leaders of several agencies, namely the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to look again at existing funds or options for protecting renters, without promising any specific relief. For example, the order states that the secretary of Health and Human Services and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‘shall consider’ whether any temporary measures to prevent evictions are necessary to stop the spread of Covid-19. Far from reinstating a moratorium, this would seem to question whether such an action on evictions is warranted.”
It seems highly unlikely that a few Trump Cabinet officials’ “consideration” is going to seriously stand in the way of struggling families being forced from their homes. The order was a sham — a cynical public relations stunt intended to help Trump save face and provide the illusion of action, even as he threw millions of Americans to the wolves.
But don’t just take our word for it. Respected housing advocates have also spoken out against Trump’s “empty shell of a promise,” as Diane Yentel, the president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, put it. “The President alluded to ‘stopping evictions,’ but the executive order fails to provide any meaningful relief to the millions of renters who are at risk of losing their homes,” she said in a statement. “President Trump failed even to use his existing authority to reinstate the limited federal eviction moratorium that expired on July 24, which covered 30% of renters nationwide.”
Or as Deborah Thrope, deputy director of the National Housing Law Project, warned: “Trump’s executive order does nothing to help the 30 to 40 million people who could become homeless by the end of the year, and in fact creates confusion for renters and homeowners alike. The order outrageously asks HUD to look under the couch cushions to solve a massive housing crisis.”
Voters of all political stripes are hungry for action to tackle the impending eviction crisis as well. In a recent national poll conducted by the Justice Collaborative Institute and Data for Progress, large majorities of voters across party lines expressed support for a variety of measures to prevent evictions. For example, 75% of respondents indicated they would support the federal government setting aside funds to help cities and states compensate landlords and lenders in order to forgive rent and mortgages, while 62% favor rent support programs that would extend back to the start of the pandemic.
But sadly, they’ll be getting no such action from Donald Trump and his Republican partners-in-crime. They’ll be too busy partying the night away to notice the cries of families being forced from their beds and into the streets.