As we head into Month 3 of this global pandemic, we are about to see a massive wave of evictions in the United States. And I’m not sure which is a more shocking statement – that over 20 million Americans are probably going to be evicted or that it’s only been 3 months of this crisis! It feels like 700 years! The before-times seem like a hazy distant memory where we were able to drink our booze, use public restrooms with no care in the world and put our tongues on lampposts without concern. But now, we’re all mostly stuck inside, contemplating wearing pants or just letting it all hangout.
In the beginning of this crisis, most civilized nations decided to buffer their citizens with direct cash payments or implemented some kind of a Universal Basic Income. In America, as the unemployment rate was rising, so called Liberal Party was assessing whether giving its citizens financial assistance was a good thing or not. They landed on or not and decided that banks can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps and need a $5 trillion dollar bailout. And the rich really can’t pull themselves up by anything because they just manicured their nails and botoxed their fingers.
Some jobs were able to pivot into the digital landscape, but some jobs are just not that lucky. So a lot of Americans got furloughed, had their hours and wages cut or lost their jobs entirely. Even people who were living semi-comfortably making 5 or 6 figures ended up struggling through this time. And most of these folks can live semi-comfortably because they don’t have a savings account. Which goes to show that the cost of things are way too damn high that when you make 5-6 figures you still can’t have a financial safety net! Look high wire trapeze acts are risking their lives and have a safety net, but the average working American, that has job at an IT department can’t? I think we have unplug and replug in this economy, because it has stopped functioning!
The folks on unemployment will be losing those benefits at the end of July! It was also reported that people were making more with unemployment benefits than they were at their actual job. This of course led to conservatives claiming the welfare state will make us all lazy. But the real issue is in the fact that people should be paid better for working their ass off! Why isn’t the conversation about how the American working class should be making $1200/week at minimum! That’s $30/hour, which is double the minimum wage progressives are trying to achieve! And that’s because the progressive movement has been talking about a $15/hour minimum since the Clinton era. The one that got a blow job not the one that didn’t get any jobs.
According to the chair of American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Evictions, Emily Benfer pointed out that during the 2008 Housing Crisis about 10 million Americans lost their homes due to the banks crushing the economy like a frat boy crushing a Miller Lite can and then getting bailed out – also like a frat boy the crushed that Miller Lite can in front of a cop in a Walmart Parking lot. Now with unemployment benefits ending and the moratoriums on debt coming to an end, the prediction is up to 28 million Americans might be homeless by September of 2020!
Cities like Memphis are seeing 9000 eviction cases. Look in a time where a lot people can’t work or pivot into a digital landscape threatening to take away someone’s home is not just callous, but it’s idiotic. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through homeless communities, and there are very few doctors and services available to help them with this. So creating more homeless to spread the disease even faster isn’t a productive way to get out of a pandemic. With the nation approaching an economic calamity worse than the Great Depression, who do you think is going to be able to rent your one-bedroom apartment with a semi-functioning fridge and no utilities covered?
And these evictions hearings are happening over Zoom, which you need access to the internet to attend and if you don’t have a roof over your head, where are you going to go to access the wonders of the internet? Coffee shops aren’t open! And I doubt Starbucks is keeping it’s wifi on when they don’t have any hipsters working their reboot script of the Hitch franchise, but instead of Will Smith it’s now a lady because…progress! Even if they were able to go to the hearings, in 99% of the cases, the courts side with the landlord, because capitalism is more important than human decency.
Now evictions aren’t the norm everywhere. For landlords that outright own their building and properties have been personally working with their tenants to ensure they don’t feel pressured to pay when they can’t. This involves both residential and commercial properties. Some landlords are working with tenants to create a payment, which is nice, but only a temporary solution. That still puts the tenants, who are already in a financial bind in the trappings of debt. It’s like a minimum security prison. It’s nice that you get to go outside twice a day, but you’re still in prison.
A more permanent solution is a Rent and Mortgage Cancellations all together. In New York, Democratic State Representative Yuh-line Niou has proposed the “Rent & Mortagage Cancelation Act of 2020” which does exactly what the name suggests! It cancels rent for renters and mortgages for small families for the duration of the pandemic plus 90 days. I’m sure there’s some people saying “PLUS 90 DAYS!? Why don’t we just give the homes away then!” And that’s not a bad idea, but it’s not the point of the 90 day extension. Once this pandemic is over, there’ll be transition period for all of us get back up to speed. We might need new jobs, new passions, new spouses! This 90 days gives people the time get both feet planted on the ground before the banks try to pull the rug from underneath us again! But what the banks don’t realize that with the amount of time we’ve had on our hands, we’re super awesome at blackflips and also Judo.
This legislation also has a relief fund for landlords so those that are indebted to the banks don’t have to have be concerned about foreclosures on their properties. Legislation like this is thinking in the long term and ensuring that we don’t repeat the same crisis we saw 12 years ago. It ensures that we don’t repeat history and keep it in an abusive relationship with human greed. History’s just not that into greed and broke up with a bunch of times, but greed keeps showing up at History’s house with a boombox over its head play IT’S favorite song! Get a hint Greed!
But Democratic Pandemic Bad Boy, Andrew Cuomo has said this is too radical of an approach and he prefers a more moderate approach. He’s got the more sensible approach of telling renters to shut the fuck up and pay what they owe so his billionaire buddies can keep vacationing in the Finger Lakes! His moderate policy is called “Die In The Street For Capitalism Act of 2020” and because he was able to finish a sentence he is a god to the Neoliberals!
But because of push back from Neoliberals and the Republicans, we have seen the rise of organized Tenant Unions all across the nation. They’re using their rights as Tenants to organize Rent Strikes to ensure the homeless population doesn’t go up because of the government’s mismanagement of the pandemic. Now in cities like Denver the Sheriff’s offices are planning on carrying out eviction orders, but they will be met with the Solidarity of the Rent Strike.
And this is a movement for these landlords to get into as well. They can call a Mortgage Strike and push back against the banks. Rather than be against the tenants, they join the fight for better Housing Rights! There are some landlords like Denver’s Olive Bark Apartment complexes that claim people should have a rainy fund. Look at this point, saving accounts, rainy day funds and picking each other up by bootstraps are for the privileged. 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck even if they make large incomes. Not because they want to, but because the current economic system is tilted to ensure the rich get richer and the poor are soaked in the rain – literally.
But there are programs in place that circumvent legislative battles and even the forthcoming Rent Strikes. In Utah, the Housing First Program has decreased homelessness by 91%. Usually when someone who’s heart has shrunk 3 sizes based on the increase of their paycheck sees a homeless person, they say “get a job!” But you can’t get a job if you don’t have a stable place to live, transportation and other luxuries us jobbed people have compared to the homeless. So in Utah, the Housing First program gave homeless people homes to help them get a proper footing in their life.
In Utah these folks are assigned to a caseworker who helps them adjust to their new lives and helps them get a job as well as mental & physical health services. After 10 years, 91% of the former homeless are still housed! This same model exists in Finland as well. On yearly basis the state of Utah saves over $5000 per homeless person by implementing the Housing First program. When don’t have to pay cops to beat them, ambulance to take then to jail and then the jail itself, you save a ton of money. Turns out being a decent human being and providing the downtrodden with some help is actually way more financially beneficial. And apparently Utah is America’s Finland when it comes to the Homeless.
Yet again it looks like conservatism in other parts of the world are out-lefting most Democrats in America. UK’s Prime Minister and Comb Protester, Boris Johnson is claiming to protect renters and landlords from the economic fallout of this pandemic. There is no reason for the Federal or State governments to decline legislation that cancels rent and mortgages for the American Working Class. When they choose not to, under the guise being a moderate or the economy, they’re choosing to punish the populace for a problem we did not create! This adds more stress and mental fatigue to an already fatigued class of people. So in turn, the American government, using housing as a point of crisis has become a public health issue as bad as this virus.
The cure is pretty simple. Create more Housing First programs to get ahead of the impending eviction epidemic and cancel the rents and mortgages.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!