On April 17, 2020, Representative Ilhan Omar introduced legislation to the House floor that would freeze all rent and mortgage payment for the duration of the outbreak: the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020 (H.R.6515). The proposition should not come as a surprise, as over 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past five weeks, demonstrating the profound financial toll the pandemic is taking on the American people.
With the unemployment rate nearing the 20% margin, which is the hardest unemployment hit since the Great Depression and its unemployment rate of 24%, people are left with a question: when is it going to be the right time to reopen our nation? The reality that so many people have lost their jobs and most other means of income, and yet are still forced to pay their bills, is terrifying. Sadly, this is the reality for many, many Americans. As people find their mailboxes filled with bills for rent and utilities, they begin to wonder whether or not the federal government will provide any assistance other than a one-time stimulus check.
Concern over the economic shutdown, misinformation from the media, and encouragement from the national leaders, has pushed many people to extremes, even leading some to protest their state governments to lift the “stay-at-home” orders. As seen in the case of Michigan, people are ready and willing to defy social distancing guidelines amid the health crisis. It is important to note that there is a correlation between one’s political views and their opinions on the lockdown. Polls show that the opposition to safety precautions arises mainly from the Republican party. The misinformation that comes from unreliable sources debunks the dangers of the virus and pushes people to go out and protest. On April 30th, the Michigan State Capitol teemed with armed protesters who tried to enter the House floor. This event shows that people are desperate to go back to work and be able to sustain their families. These protests, however, are not safe and put thousands of people in danger.
In order to ease the burden of financial struggle, Congress implemented multiple programs, including the CARES Act. A key provision for American families is the additional $600 in unemployment insurance benefits to those who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 related shutdown. It is clear that the federal government is trying to help people— but is it doing enough?
The biggest concern for many Americans still remains the inability to pay for housing, whether that payment is rent or mortgage. Despite the CARES Act becoming law on March 27th, many states are still unable to process all of the unemployment claims. Florida is one of the states where hundreds of thousands of people are still not receiving their benefits. This is due to the fact that Departments of Labor in many states still operate on outdated operating systems and cannot sustain the processing power required to go through tens of thousands of claims.
The progressive wing of the House is trying to address this issue, as seen in the case of Representative Ilhan Omar. She understands that the problem does not only affect the renters, but also the landlords. As a result, she made sure to propose a system that would also assist the landlords with the suspension of payment. The landlord relief fund in H.R. 6515 would allocate resources in order to make sure that landlords are still paid despite the global pandemic.
Unless more members of Congress stand up and act to protect the American people, this pandemic will have massive impacts on the working class and forever change the way our nation operates. This is an unprecedented time and we need our government to help us through this crisis. In fact, many people are showing their support for a new stimulus bill, the Emergency Money for the People Act (H.R.6496). The bill is thought to provide a monthly payment of $2000 for all Americans over the age of 16. The proposal was introduced on April 14th, but the voting still has not taken place. Congress needs to forget about politics, come together as one legislative body, and pass the legislation that would help millions get through this pandemic. It is time for Congress to act before it is too late.
Daniil Tagaev is a young political activist from New York. He is fascinated with the organization of the federal government and follows its actions closely. Over the years of community service, Daniil built up a dream of serving his community by representing it in Congress. By writing for NGP, he hopes to inform the American youth about the actions and inactions of the government.