Mass evictions: The difference between the next Great Depression or the next recovery

(Nevada Current file photo)

For months the most vulnerable families in Nevada have been going to bed anxious and waking up scared. Millions of Americans are unemployed, running out of savings, and are at risk of being evicted in the next few weeks. If something isn’t done soon it’s about to get much worse for working families.

On December 31st, the CDC’s moratorium on evictions will expire, one day after state and local governments can no longer utilize Coronavirus Relief Funds from the CARES Act. This means that as funding for local rental assistance programs dry up renters across the country will be forced onto the streets.

An eviction tsunami is bearing down upon us just as we are hitting the highest number of positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19. The way that we handle this situation will determine whether we can get our economy moving again as quickly as possible.

There are 40 million people across the country who are at-risk of being evicted at the end of year when the federal eviction moratorium expires. Those most at-risk are Black, Indigenous, and people of color – as well as immigrants.  These communities of color are being impacted the most by the effects of this virus.

Due to Mr. Trump’s and Mitch McConnell’s grudge against states and municipalities, budgets of those who are on the frontline have been decimated. Local officials simply do not have the resources they need to support rental assistance programs beginning in January and the federal government has shamefully failed to address the problem.

Every dollar that states and municipalities redirect to deal with the looming eviction cliff during a pandemic is a dollar they have to take out of already underfunded classrooms or from patients who need subsidized life-saving prescription drugs.

The argument for allowing renters to keep their homes and supporting landlords isn’t just a moral one, it’s one of fiscal responsibility and solvency.

The State of Nevada has been one of the hardest hit states during COVID-19. Hospitality workers have faced the largest unemployment of any group since March. A new state moratorium only delays mass evictions in Nevada until March 31, 2021, and it’s estimated that as many as 400,000 Nevadas could ultimately be evicted.

Working families desperately need help, and they need action right now. Inaction from Congress is inexcusable. If Congress doesn’t fund a comprehensive eviction moratorium with associated rental and mortgage assistance, they will force states to bear the expense of an increasingly unstable workforce, economy, and public health situation.

A comprehensive federal solution on housing and evictions needs to be included in the next COVID-19 stimulus package before the end of the year. This package needs to:

  • Extend the CDC moratorium on evictions until we get the virus under control
  • Remove loopholes that predatory landlords have been using to process evictions during the pandemic
  • Provide significant financial support to State and local rental assistance programs to keep them operational past January 1st
  • Ensure that all funding for rental assistance can be quickly and easily accessed by people who need it.

It’s important that any solution enacted to address evictions during COVID-19 isn’t just simply an extension of the moratorium, since that does nothing to get people out of debt or to stimulate the economy. Any moratorium must be supported with additional funding to state and municipal rental assistance programs and this problem must be funded nationally.

We have an obligation to do everything we can to protect workers and our families. We know that we’ll make it through this crisis eventually, but the trajectory of our recovery and number of families who don’t recover comes down to this decision.

If we continue to not prioritize housing and rental assistance, our economic recovery will be more drawn out. Essential programs and services will continue to be subject to local budgetary constraints, while more Nevadans will get sick and die from this virus.

We deserve better than that, we need Congress to get to work.

Geoconda Argüello-Kline
Geoconda Argüello-Kline serves as the Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226.
Zach Conine
Zach Conine is the 23rd Nevada State Treasurer