Nonprofits Confront COVID-19 Eviction Crisis
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has hit every sector of the economy. Opinion writers compare the current historical moment to the Great Depression. Wall Street observers warn of a double-dip recession, and analysis of past pandemics indicate that the economic fallout could last decades.
Americans face a grim reality, underscored by a recent survey that found that 40 percent of people who lost work due to COVID-19 cannot last more than a month with their current savings. Evictions across the country are expected to increase dramatically in the coming months, with up to 40 million people at risk of losing their homes. In some places, the surge of evictions has already arrived, just as a federal eviction moratorium recently expired.
According to Martin Hendrickson—who works with the nonprofit Idaho Legal Aid—eviction cases in Idaho have doubled compared to this time last year. Local nonprofit leaders expect this alarming number to grow. In Florida, up to 800,000 renters face eviction. Diana Chestnut of Legal Services of North Florida explains the unprecedented scope of the housing crisis: “It’s affecting people from every walk of life. We expect a tsunami of evictions. We expect the homeless problem to be totally out of hand.”
Gridlock in Washington, D.C. has exacerbated the situation, as Congress failed to renew the eviction moratorium put in place after the onset of the pandemic before going on recess. While a patchwork of state and municipal leaders have moved to safeguard at-risk populations, vast swaths of the nation lack meaningful protections during this dire time.
The federal government must intervene to mitigate the worst effects of the growing housing crisis. In addition to continuing a moratorium on evictions, federal and state leaders need to extend emergency benefits and allocate funding to nonprofits providing legal assistance and financial aid to vulnerable populations.
An explosion in housing insecurity would result in preventable, widespread suffering and place further strain on the economy. If Congress fails to act, the nation’s dysfunctional leadership must be held accountable for its negligence during this historic crisis.