Child Poverty

Millions of Children Could Lose Their Homes if Congress Fails to Act

July 17, 2020 | National

Right now, 50 million renters live in households with lost jobs or wages due to the pandemic, with 40 percent of job losses concentrated in low-income families. A third of renters failed to make rent last month and a similar number have little or no confidence in their ability to pay next month. And these disparities are falling hardest on Black children and families with more than 40 percent of Black renter households having little or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent.

The scale of the COVID-19 crisis is already staggering, but what comes next could be even more significant: Unless Congress provides robust housing assistance and fully extends the eviction moratorium to cover more families, more than 20 million people will be at risk of eviction by the end of Septemberdisproportionately Black and Latinx renters—making housing and racial justice a key concern for our communities and Congress.

The housing and racial justice crisis is deepening. 

The coming wave of evictions will put millions of children out of their homes, especially those in Black and Latinx families. These families are more likely to have experienced COVID-related jobs or wage loss and are much more likely to lack emergency funds to cover future expenses.

Eviction, housing insecurity, and homelessness can do long-lasting, even irreparable harm to children. To deny a child a safe, stable home even in the best of times is unconscionable; to do so in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic when the ability to shelter at home can be the difference between life and death is a disgraceful act of violence. 

We know how to stop the coming eviction crisis. Across the country, temporary eviction moratoriums have successfully prevented mass evictions. Unfortunately, many of the moratoriums currently on the books are expiring, and evictions are starting back up in many cities and states. 

Federal eviction moratoriums are set to expire.  

At the national level, the CARES Act created a moratorium on evictions that only applies to federally backed rental properties through July 25. More than 10 million renters receive housing assistance from HUD, including more than 6 million people in families with children. If the federal eviction moratorium is allowed to expire, many of these renters will be at risk of eviction.

Because the moratorium in the CARES Act is so narrow, renters with private landlords are dependent on state and local eviction moratoriums to protect them. In many places, protections have already lapsed or were never put in place.

State-level evictions are increasing. 

Currently, evictions are allowed to proceed in 27 states; unsurprisingly, in those places where moratoriums have lapsed, there have been significant spikes in evictions. Only 29 states have rent relief programs. Due to strict eligibility requirements, it can be hard to receive the assistance unless a family can prove job loss, among other burdensome requirements. 

According to Eviction Lab, evictions have been up considerably over the last year in Milwaukee, WI. In Memphis, TN, courts are processing 9,000 evictions that were put on hold until the state’s moratorium expired last month. In Houston, 2,300 eviction cases have been filed in the past month.

These problems will only grow as evictions resume in more places to force low-income children and families out of their homes. Statewide moratoriums are set to expire in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Maryland this month. Thirty-two percent of renters in Florida either couldn’t pay the rent last month or fear they won’t be able to pay rent next month; the same is true of 29 percent of renters in Maryland and Indiana.

Congress must act. 

Congress could end all this uncertainty by passing a uniform, nationwide ban on evictions and providing $100 billion for emergency rental assistance to ensure that struggling families can stay in their homes and won’t be subject to evictions once the nationwide moratorium ends. These crucial housing protections were included in the HEROES Act passed by the House last month. However, the Senate has failed to act. We urge the Senate to include these provisions in its next COVID relief package and to show their support by cosponsoring Senator Sherrod Brown’s Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act (S.3685), which includes many of the provisions in the House-passed HEROES Act like a national eviction moratorium and funding for emergency housing assistance.

Housing is a racial justice issue at its core, and the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing too many families over the edge. We must do everything we can to protect our children from losing their homes now and in the future. 

To learn more about our housing justice and racial justice priorities, click here.