Opinion: Trump must sign the stimulus bill to protect vulnerable renters


Perspectives David Dworkin
Some of the stimulus funds are desperately needed to help keep all of us safe and moving toward a better future. Those most immediately at risk are the millions of renters throughout the country facing eviction from their homes. To date, they have largely been protected by local, state and federal moratoriums on evictions of tenants who can’t pay their rent due to the impact of the pandemic.
Even if President Trump were to sign the bill today, which he should, getting the rents paid with the $25 billion of rental assistance that Congress appropriated will take many weeks. The legislation also extends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current eviction moratorium through the end of January. It is currently set to expire just days from now. Landlords need to work with their tenants to ensure they are safe and housed. If they don’t, they should not get federal assistance to cover missed rental payments.
What is at risk is nothing short of lives and livelihoods. Evicting millions of people would send many to the streets. Recent analysis by Stout Risius Ross, LLC, a global advisory firm, predicts between 2,436,000 and 4,956,500 American households would be at immediate risk of eviction in January if the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention ban on evictions were lifted come the end of this month.

Many will end up homeless, crowding shelters and street corners during the coldest months of winter. Most will find shelter with friends and relatives, shattering social distancing efforts while the pandemic rages, just months before vaccines are available to average Americans.

'I have $4 to my name.' An extended eviction ban isn't enough for some struggling renters

This week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that apartment owners with mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — less than half of the multifamily market — will get forbearance on their own obligations through March 31. To get this help, they must inform tenants in writing about the protections that are available and agree not to evict solely for the nonpayment of rent while the property is in forbearance. The exact same restrictions should apply to rental assistance payments as well.

When the CARES Act was signed on March 27, it took Treasury more than a month to issue guidance on the implementation of relief funds. We simply don’t have that kind of time to waste now. The Treasury General Counsel’s office and the Biden transition team should begin work immediately on new guidance based on that which already exists, so they can be issued no later than January 21. This will provide landlords the assurance that help is around the corner, which will encourage them to help their tenants stay in their homes.

The stakes are too high to allow for any delay. The first step is for the President Trump to sign the bill he has been given, which his own Treasury Secretary helped negotiate. The second is for everyone involved in the process of getting the money out to work together.



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