What the federal relief bill means for unemployment and eviction rates

By Cassandra Drumond

Alianza News

A nine-hundred-billion-dollar relief package was approved by Congress to help Americans facing eviction and the end of unemployment benefits, among many other forms of assistance for the American people.

Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) from California, who represents portions of Los Angeles and Santa Monica, is a member of the House Progressive Caucus, actively pushed for a second relief check to be included in the stimulus bill.

Ted Lieu, explains: “In terms of the COVID relief package, it is smaller than I would have preferred. On May 15th, 2020 the House passed the 3.4 trillion-dollar Heroes Act. This package is much smaller, but something is better than nothing. I think there are some good provisions though, there is eighty-one billion dollars going to education, of which fifty-four billion are going to K-12 education. We have twenty-five billion going to rental assistance. Almost three-hundred billion going to forgivable paycheck protection programs for small businesses. If there is a mixed status family, then they are included, meaning if there is one person who is undocumented then they are captured in this bill this time around.”

Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, adds: “Congress and the President put together a much needed bill that is far from perfect but it does reestablish support for those millions who were about to lose their unemployment benefits. People who held jobs that require face to face contact are the ones who are now unemployed, and a large number of those jobs are held by people of color. These are jobs that usually pay low wages. The structure of unemployment insurance thinks the average worker is a white male breadwinner, on a temporary layoff with a job he is going back to. That is not the job market we have now. What we did get from the CARES Act is assistance to people who were underserved and benefitted from the strong measures in the CARES Act such as the additional six-hundred-dollar weekly benefit amount and expanded eligibility to people who fell through the cracks of the existing unemployment insurance system. During the worst downturn of the economic spiral there was relief that helped and sustained people and the economy, so it did not become worse. As the economy was starting to come out of the deep hole it was in, the six-hundred-dollar weekly assistance disappeared at the end of July and there was no further stimulus. The economy slowed and unemployment benefits were pitifully small for those who needed it the most. I believe it was stopped it prematurely.”

Peter Hepburn, assistant professor of Sociology at Rutgers University in Newark studied evictions. Him and his team have developed an eviction tracking system website that tracks evictions in real time. Hepburn explains: “The Eviction Tracking System monitors real-time eviction filings, collects data from publicly available court systems and compares data to previous years. The federal government does not collect data on evictions at all and almost no states or counties report statistics without at least a year or two delay. We decided to build a tool to see what is happening now. The ETS is ran on a website and updated every Tuesday afternoon with data current as of the previous Saturday. There are 27 cities listed on the site, nine states and it covers 11 million renter households. We make data available down to the zip code level for all of these cities. We also map all the data, the goal is show where eviction cases are unusually high. Across the 27 cities we are tracking, we have seen 162,563 eviction filings since March 15th of this year, with 3,526 filings the week of December 6th. In January through March, evictions were typical. However, in late March they plummeted and were well below averages through until August. There have been 1.5 million less eviction cases than in a typical year, however, many of those can get pushed into 2021. There were two weeks in August, when the CARES Act eviction moratorium expired and when the CDC eviction moratorium was not yet in place where Landlords moved very fast to evict a large amount of people in those two weeks. We have reason to believe the number of eviction filings will go up once the eviction moratorium does lift.”

Ultimately, we will have to follow the unemployment and eviction rates in this 2021, with many changes to come in terms of COVID and the new administration.