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With the national eviction ban expiring today, Leopold expects he and his wife Vivia and their six young children to be evicted from their home in Deerfield Beach, Florida, where they have lived for three years.
You are one of millions of families in America who are still behind on rent and could be at risk of homelessness if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium is lifted at midnight.
“I tremble just thinking about it,” said Leopold, 50.
Leopold, who only asked to use his first name because of the stigma associated with evictions, said the pandemic set him back more than he can count.
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He lost his job as a bartender at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and had to figure out how to help his kids study remotely. Vivia soon lost her accounting job too.
Your rental debt has swelled to $ 20,000.
He tries to get back on his feet, but time is running out.
He applied for rent allowance but his landlord refused to work on the program, a common problem. He asked the organization he had applied to if he could get the money directly to secure new apartments, but he hasn’t heard anything yet.
“The moratorium expires before the funds are spent,” he said.
States and cities have been slow to distribute the $ 45 billion in federal rental subsidies provided by Congress. Those funds were approved in the last two major coronavirus stimulus packages, passed in December and March, and yet only $ 3 billion has reached budgets, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Recently, Leopold enrolled in a cybersecurity certificate program at the University of Miami, which he hopes will result in a decent-paying job. And Vivia is training to be a nurse.
But they don’t know how to log into their classes when they are homeless. All of the local animal shelters he called told him they had no place for him and his family at the moment.
“My babies just have fun with their toys,” he said. “You have no idea what’s going to happen.”
Who is at risk?
About 11 million Americans are still behind on their rent and could face eviction in August.
The crisis will hit some countries harder than others.
Nearly 25% of Georgia renters are lagging behind, compared with just 6% in Idaho, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found.
The six counties with the highest percentage of tenants are all in South Carolina, including Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton, and Orangeburg, according to research by Surgo Ventures, a nonprofit. Up to 1 in 3 tenants may be behind at these locations.
And in general, the hardships are worse in the south.
There are a number of reasons for this, said Aaron Dibner-Dunlap, senior research scientist at Surgo Ventures.
“Before the pandemic, the southern states also had relatively high evacuation rates,” said Dibner-Dunlap. “So the vulnerability of living in this region has been a challenge for several years.”
Another factor? “Most southern states haven’t adopted the Medicaid expansion, so you also see large swathes of the population without adequate health care when they get sick,” he said. “Research shows time and time again that big shocks in one area – like huge medical expenses – can send people into a financial downturn.”
Across the country, low-income Americans and people of color are also more likely to be behind on their rent.
Slightly more than 10% of white tenants are in arrears, while almost 25% of black tenants no longer pay their rent.
Some of the highest hardship cases are among black single mothers, with more than 1 in 3 owing debt to their landlord, the center found.
“The long history of racism and discrimination in our nation has created unequal opportunities for people of color, placing them at greater risk of home instability, evictions and homelessness,” said Alicia Mazzara, a senior research analyst on the center’s housing policy team.
Research also shows that eviction rates are higher in communities with lower vaccination rates.
As a result, a historic wave of displacement could make it difficult for the country to exit the pandemic. A study last year found that more than 400,000 Covid cases and around 10,000 deaths could be linked to displacement of people.
Leopold is fully vaccinated, but his wife is still waiting for her second dose. None of his children are fully vaccinated. He just prays that Congress will extend the ban at the last minute for his family and anyone else who is doing the same thing.
“It is just unreasonable to allow such an ordeal in the United States,” he said.