Opinion | She Works Two Jobs. She’s Still Facing Eviction.
January 13, 2021
Video by Lucy King
She Works Two Jobs. She’s Still Facing Eviction.
Moratoriums kept millions housed, but back rent has piled up. On Feb. 1, the bill is due.
“More help is on the way.” At long last, the government passed a Covid relief bill at the end of 2020. [CHANTING] And if you weren‘t paying attention, you might think it solved the eviction crisis. “It is a welcome sigh of relief for millions.” “Money is also earmarked for renters.” “Lawmakers include a measure to extend the moratorium on evictions.” But this bill was never a long-term fix. Republicans fought to make the bill smaller for so long it just kicked the can down the road — by just 30 days to be exact. And now Democrats have control of Congress, and they have until the end of January to fix it. If they don‘t, millions of people around the country will go through something like this. “Maricopa County constable. Open the door, please.” Here are two people who embody a new class of Americans, people who have worked hard, pay their bills and had good jobs, but suffered a small setback. [MUSIC PLAYING] Back in February of 2020, I never would have predicted this. And because the Senate took eight months to deliver what was meant to be an emergency relief package, the help they needed wasn‘t there. So their lives suddenly unraveled. Take Melissa. She worked in government contracting until May, when Covid shut down the industry. Since then, she‘s worked a part-time gig in the local grocery store. I used to earn $120,000 a year, and now I’m earning $12,000 a year. She owes seven months of back rent. I can‘t explain it. If there‘s any word beyond nightmare that you could imagine, that‘s it. The relief bill contains a one-time stimulus check of $600. It is like spitting in the ocean. That‘s not going to do anything for me to alleviate my situation that I‘m in right now. She needs to find $10,000 by the end of January to save her home. It‘s completely impossible, like completely, completely impossible. A larger check would definitely help, but the real solution is rental assistance. Families get to keep their homes, and landlords get their rent, both of which will help keep the economy afloat. But when the federal government gave rent relief money back in March, they didn‘t have a plan for how the states should give it out. That meant it was delivered very late and via a system that‘s virtually impossible to navigate, especially if you‘re busy working 60 hours a week and two health care jobs, like Lina. I called around. I tried. I fill out applications, and either I exceed the income, or, you know, they run out of funds. So it‘s like, how do you get ahold of the rental assistance when you need it? Lina fell behind on rent after she got Covid and had to take time off work. Her back rent due is now $3,500. Everything had a late fee to it, you know? And so it‘s like you trying to pay it, but you keep getting knocked down with the fees that they‘re adding onto it. And that‘s why a small problem becomes a big one that‘s hard to fix, because like a lot of people, Lina falls into an impossible middle ground. She earns too much to qualify for most rental assistance but too little to repay her debt. The clock is ticking for Lina and Melissa and millions like them. They need to pay their back rent by the end of January because the ban on evictions is ending, and the rent relief promised in the latest bill hasn‘t reached them. The thought of losing this place makes me feel sad and, you know, like I failed. But these women are not failures or victims of bad luck. They‘ve been let down by a Republican-led Senate who prioritized political posturing over real solutions. It‘s cruel. I don‘t know if I can work enough hours. I wake up in the middle of the night in complete drenched sweat and terror. And now the government has just days to make immediate relief available to save their homes and millions of others. [MUSIC PLAYING]
Across the country, coronavirus cases are soaring. Everyone knows by now the best way to stay safe is to stay home. But on Feb. 1, if nothing changes, 30 million Americans are facing eviction.
In the video above, you’ll meet two hard-working single mothers living in Atlanta, Ga who suddenly lost income because of the virus. While the eviction moratorium kept a roof over their heads, it didn’t stop the back rent and late fees from accumulating — and with no relief in sight, they can’t possibly pay off all the money they owe no matter how many hours they work.
Since the pandemic upended the lives of tens of millions of Americans, congressional aid has been far too little, far too late. Now that Democrats have taken control of the Senate, can we finally enact a long-term solution?
Lucy King (@king__lucy) is a producer with Opinion Video.