As the COVID 19 crisis ramps up with deaths multiplying across state and nation boundaries, relief efforts are also ramping up. So far in the United States, the current administration has adopted a mix of classic bail out the corporations approaches and exact talking points from Democratic presidential contenders. While France and Italy have instituted both strict crackdowns and relief programs, the US’ messaging around both has been. . . let’s go with inconsistent.
In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan has ordered a temporary halt on evictions– both for small businesses and individuals. This is a solid move from a Mayor whose often been disappointing or absent. Putting a bunch of folks out on the street is not the way to stem a pandemic. The city has also announced various funds whereby businesses or individuals can apply for assistance; these funds have caps on them, they will inevitably run out. As funds do.
ALL THESE EFFORTS ARE NOT ENOUGH
It was one week ago that Jay Inslee ordered the shuttering of all bars, cafes, and restaurants. Some are still doing food to go with limited hours, but many are closed. Some permanently. The official line as it stands is that the bar ban will last two weeks. The reality is that no one knows how long it will last; as the death toll from COVID 19 mounts and social crackdowns increase, it seems highly unlikely that anyone is reopening any time soon, nor should they.
This leaves myself, and many, many, other people in service industry jobs out of work for the time being, or possibly permanently. Like, no income. Like, no tips, no hourly. As we jam the unemployment benefits hotlines, as the website stalls and crashes, and as communication is spotty and confusing, the question on most of our minds is:
“How am I going to pay rent?”
BENEVOLENT LANDLORDS TO THE RESCUE. . . NOT
Last week a notice from management was posted on the door to my apartment unit. It was about five paragraphs long, but the gist of it was “We realize many of you are having difficulty financially at this time due to COVID 19. If you are struggling, please stop by our office and we’ll discuss options.”
A friend of mine who lives in my same apartment building at the edge of the ID and Pioneer Square stopped in to see exactly what this note meant. The office person informed him that yes, rent was still due, same time, same channel, same amount. Not taking any more questions, but here’s a packet for you. In the packet was a list of food banks and loan companies.
Without rent and mortgage forgiveness, an eviction hold is just kicking the can down the road.
So here’s the gist: I’m not allowed to work currently. While the current crisis persists, I can’t be put out on the street. Great. But if I, with no current income, can’t pay my rent, my landlords can just keep adding late fees and either slap me with a multi-thousand dollar bill in a couple months, or create a “payment plan” that effectively raises my monthly cost considerably.
By the way, this building’s rent has gone up by nearly fifty percent in the five years I’ve lived there. The management company is a national one, so this is not the case of one particularly evil landlord– this is basic policy and it’s not going to change unless the government steps in
For individual landlords– families that own houses, rent is a large part of their income. Two or three months without it while still paying down their mortgage would put them in a similar position to me; forced to pay while not allowed to get paid.
WE NEED RENT AND MORTGAGE FORGIVENESS AND WE NEED THEM NOW.
Also published on Medium.