About 12 million renters owe over $5,000 in past-due rent, according to a recent survey, while about one-in-five families with children have fallen behind on paying their rent, The Washington Post reports.
The Census Bureau found that 21% of families are falling behind on rent, including 29% of Black families and 17% of Hispanic families. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that 1.3 million households with people who had a job before the coronavirus pandemic and lost it after are, on average, $5,400 in debt when it comes to rent and utilities.
“The tidal wave is coming. It’s going to be really horrible for people,” Charlie Harak, a senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, told the Post. “The number of people who are now 90 days behind and the dollars they are behind are growing quite significantly.”
Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, compared many people’s living situation to “a Charles Dickens novel.”
He added, “It’s an evolving story of how people at the bottom are suffering.”
“It’s much better for Congress to err on the side of helping too much than too little,” Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics’ chief economist, noted. “There’s nothing scarier than losing your home, especially in January with a pandemic out of control. That would be overwhelming.”
He added that the amount of unpaid debt for rent and utilities will likely reach $70 billion by January, and even more damage could be caused by widespread evictions in 2021, which he predicts will cause people to “lose faith” in the government.
“The economic damage created by this pandemic will be many times more severe if we lose faith that the government has our back,” Zandi said.
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