In April and May, renters scraped money together to make rent payments, even though millions have lost work due to the COVID-19 crisis. While 36 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment in the last two months, rent payments are still expected. If most people have found a way to pay rent, it hasn’t been easy or without fear of how long they can do so.
While some have seen their income actually increase on unemployment benefits, that just speaks to how terrible their pay is. And those benefits are likely to run out soon. With the one-time stimulus checks already doled out, it’s unclear what people will do moving forward. There are also untold numbers of people who have not received any of these benefits, including those who are undocumented or work under-the-table. Many have felt pressured to use what financial assistance they have on rent rather than other necessary expenses. An Urban Institute Survey from April showed that almost half of renters reported some kind of financial hardship. Even as protections against evictions in some states have been put into place, many are scared of retaliation or being evicted after the protections are lifted. In some cases, landlords are harassing and intimidating renters into spending their last pennies on rent.
This is another example of the double standards of life under capitalism. While corporations are receiving massive tax breaks and government assistance, ordinary people are expected to pay landlords and banks regardless of lost work or income. While politicians and elites have left working people high and dry, some people have come together to respond to this crisis. Some in large apartment buildings have organized their buildings for rent strikes, others are forming tenants’ groups to help inform and support one another. There are many ways we can start to fight. We’ll have to get organized more and more in the days to come to make it clear that we shouldn’t have to pay for their crisis.
Featured image credit: Brooke Anderson / @MovementPhotographer
More than 100 cars joined a “Vehicle March and Sound Action” on April 11, 2020, in Oakland, California. The action was organized by the Black Housing Union and Moms 4 Housing to call attention to the fact that Black residents are being hit disproportionately hard by the coronavirus.