Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Last week, all students living in South Campus Commons and Courtyards learned they would be evicted due to the coronavirus. While this may pose an inconvenience to some students, it’s ultimately for the best — it removes them from at-risk areas and hopefully encourages them to follow quarantine procedures and self-isolate at home.
For tenants who are being removed from their permanent residences across the nation, however, the situation is far more complicated. Currently, multiple cities are in the process of considering or implementing emergency eviction bans to prevent tenants from being removed due to complications related to the coronavirus. Given how the coronavirus has essentially thrust our nation head-first into a recession, it’s imperative to help these vulnerable demographics survive this crisis.
Mass closure of restaurants, bars and basically any public gathering place — as well as a virtual shutdown of airline and travel companies — will have considerable repercussions for the service industry. Workers at these establishments will inevitably be laid off as these businesses’ revenues decrease. Following such a closure in Texas, one report forewarned that one million out of the 1.4 million people employed in the Texas restaurant industry could lose their jobs.
If this wasn’t bad enough, it appears the coronavirus has also triggered the worst recession since the Great Depression. The stock market has plummeted in the past month and will likely continue to catastrophically decline. Growth is stalling in countries all across the world. This global recession is not only devastating but completely unprecedented. We’ve never simultaneously been in the midst of such a calamitous economic downturn and a pandemic that severely restricts businesses and public movement.
Experts have also warned that unemployment could reach record numbers. Greg Daco, the chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said that unemployment could reach 10 percent, comparable to the peak of the Great Recession. Others have even forecasted a 20 percent unemployment rate without government intervention. While the hysteria around the coronavirus may influence these claims, the data doesn’t lie — across the nation, the number of unemployment claims has seen a disturbing increase.
The Trump administration has supposedly acted on this issue by freezing foreclosures and evictions for those with a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration. In addition, officials have drafted a massive stimulus package that would spend up to $1 trillion to support declining industries and provide cash relief to Americans.
While these solutions may seem effective on paper, they do little to help renters, the most vulnerable group, stay afloat during this crisis. The exemption only applies to homeowners and does very little for renters who don’t own mortgages. Compared with house owners, renters are more likely to be low-income. As a result, they’re the ones often living paycheck to paycheck and are likely to be hit the hardest by a recession or mass closure. Cash relief can only provide for so much when you lose your job. Even with $2,000, most of the check would go to rent, and the remainder would have to be carefully partitioned to provide for food, clothing and other necessities.
The logical solution is a universal moratorium on evictions, providing a grace period for tenants to adjust to this crisis. In this case, they can utilize the stimulus package in its entirety to accommodate their basic needs. If they were fired, this also gives tenants time to file jobless claims and apply for welfare programs. For the Americans who could potentially lose everything in this recession, this is the least we can do.