States and Localities Must Act to Mitigate This Eviction Crisis
We all want the COVID-19 pandemic to be behind us. But the fact is, it’s not over. Daily COVID-19 cases rates are three times higher than Labor Day last year, and the fact that children under age 12 are not eligible to receive a COVID vaccine understandably has many concerned about in-person school starting across the country. To make matters worse, in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the revised CDC eviction moratorium, which protected renters in counties with high or substantial community transmission—nearly all of the United States—from eviction for non-payment of rent. And pandemic unemployment benefits just ended for about 10 million people—over 7 million people lost all their benefits and about 3 million people lost the $300 per week boost to their meager state unemployment benefits.
Given our nation’s history of racism and sexism in our economic systems, it’s sadly no surprise who is still bearing the brunt of the economic crisis—Black and Latina women. The unemployment rate for Black, non-Hispanic women ages 20 and over rose from 7.6% in July 2021 to 7.9% in August 2021, and 6% of Latinas ages 20 and over were unemployed in August 2021. In comparison, the unemployment rate for white men in this age range was 4.4%. And by early August, more than 4.4 million women who rent were still behind on their rent—including 26.4% of Black, non-Hispanic women and 20% of Latinas, compared to 8.7% of white, non-Hispanic men. With many states and localities slow rolling the release of $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance, the eviction crisis is getting worse, not better.
The good news is that actions can mitigate this harm. Here are the top 5 things states and localities can do:
- Implement state and local eviction moratoriums, following these best practices.
- Increase assistance to legal aid so more renters in eviction proceedings can access counsel.
- Simplify emergency rental assistance program (ERAP) applications. This can include eliminating photo ID requirements that can especially harm people of color, people with low incomes, and trans people. ERA programs can remove other burdensome documentation requirements from applications by implementing self-attestation, as recommended by the Treasury’s latest guidance. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has several resources to help ERA programs simplify their applications.
- Provide direct-to-tenant ERA assistance, which gives tenants the ability to pay off their back rent on their own or secure new housing if their landlord refuses to take that assistance.
- Conduct robust outreach and form partnerships with community-based organizations so more renters know about available COVID relief, including rent relief.
These solutions can help address the short-term eviction crisis. But in the long run, what women of color really need is for Congress to pass a bold equitable recovery package that includes strong investments in long-term rental assistance so women of color aren’t spending 30%, 50%, and more of their income on rent, reforming the unemployment insurance program, extending expansions to refundable tax credits, investing more in child care, and other critical supports for women, children, and families.