Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Urge Trump to Work With Congress to Provide Emergency Rental Assistance and Protections

Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Urge Trump to Work With Congress to Provide Emergency Rental Assistance and Protections

Vulnerable infants, children, young adults, caregivers, parents facing unprecedented economic strain amid public health crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with 30 of their Senate colleagues, are pushing President Trump to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to enact legislation that provides the emergency assistance and protections renters need to stay in their homes.

Millions of children and youth are at risk of being evicted from their homes due to the Trump administration’s refusal to support critical rental assistance and relief measures to protect their health and well-being during this pandemic.

“Even before the pandemic, a quarter of all renters were spending half their incomes on housing, and more than 20 million children lived in households that struggled to afford housing,” the senators wrote in a letter to President Trump. “This pandemic is not only revealing the inequities in our society, but exacerbating them. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that nearly 1-in-5 renters were behind on rent in July.  This hardship fell more heavily on Black and brown renters and families with children, among whom more than 1-in-4 had fallen behind on rent.”

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Merkley and Wyden have kept a steady drumbeat on the need to pass legislation—including the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, which they introduced with their Senate colleagues—to help ensure that Americans can keep roofs over their heads.

Housing assistance is now even more urgently needed in Oregon, as wildfires continue to ravage the state, endangering lives, destroying homes, and bringing many industries and businesses to a near stand-still. Merkley and Wyden recently joined their colleagues in the Oregon delegation in writing to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to push for additional, immediate housing aid to protect the health and safety of the thousands of Oregonians displaced by the fires, and to secure housing stability for the lowest-income survivors.

The Oregon senators were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Gary Peters (D-MI).

A full copy of the letter can be found here and is available below.

 

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Dear President Trump:

Millions of children and youth remain at-risk of being evicted from their homes without critical rental assistance to help them or their caregivers pay their bills. Americans deserve better. Senate Republicans ignored calls from across the country—from parents, advocates, young people, and housing providers— for rental assistance, and instead introduced a proposal that is out of touch with the experiences of American households, leaving millions of people behind.

Your Administration recently issued an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instituting a federal rental eviction moratorium through December 31, 2020 for nonpayment of rent. While we appreciate the order’s recognition that evictions pose a grave threat to individuals’ and public health, and that “as many as 30–40 million people,” are at risk of eviction, this action does not include any new funding to help people pay their rent so they can remain in their homes once the moratorium expires. In addition, the order does not prohibit landlords from charging late penalties and fees to renters who are struggling to pay rent. 

Today, millions of households are facing impossible choices between paying the rent or mortgage, or purchasing food or medicine. Given recent spikes in COVID-19 caseloads and an economic crisis that continues to deepen, we urge you to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to enact legislation that provides the emergency assistance renters need to stay in their homes.

Even before the pandemic, a quarter of all renters were spending half their incomes on housing, and more than 20 million children lived in households that struggled to afford housing.[1] This pandemic is not only revealing the inequities in our society, but exacerbating them. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that nearly 1-in-5 renters were behind on rent in July.  This hardship fell more heavily on Black and brown renters and families with children, among whom more than 1-in-4 had fallen behind on rent.[2]

Black or Hispanic households with children are more than twice as likely to be behind on their rent or mortgage or struggle to get enough to eat.[3] Research also shows that these circumstances too often lead to housing instability. We’ve seen how housing instability works hand-in-hand with overrepresentation of Black and Hispanic families in the child welfare system, as families experiencing housing instability are more likely to be investigated by child welfare and have their children removed and placed in foster care compared to families with low incomes who have stable housing.[4] And for those children that live with their grandparents, we see them empty their savings only to lose their homes and move to temporary hotels or motels, forcing them to convert these time-limited living spaces into classrooms and bedrooms to create safe places for their grandchildren during this pandemic.[5] We know before the pandemic young people with foster care experiences struggled with housing instability and recent surveys reveal that more than 40 percent of young people report immediate or pending loss of housing as a result of the public health crisis.[6] Without rental assistance for these young people and families, they will be forced to accrue insurmountable debt, fees, and fines, potentially post-dating evictions until the first of the year.

Evictions have mental health implications for children as well as mothers who experience higher rates of depression months after being forced out of their home, which negatively impacts children’s development.[7] Child health disparities, as a result of evictions, are compounded by the economic hardships faced by parents who are left with court orders and judgements that make it harder to secure new housing and maintain stable employment. While parents and students across the country face uncertainty this school year, children who are evicted or move because they can no longer afford rent may be forced to switch schools, resulting in greater disruptions in their academic achievement. Evictions during a pandemic have even more severe negative implications for children. Families who are evicted are forced to move in with others in overcrowded residences, or move to hotel rooms, shelters, cars or other situations, making remote learning for children and social distancing nearly impossible.

More than 20 million renters have experienced a job loss due to the pandemic, putting millions of households at risk of eviction in the coming months.[8] As unemployment remains high and millions of families with children struggle to make ends meet, it is critical that your Administration and Senate Republicans return to the negotiating table and work to provide at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance to help millions – including families with children – keep a roof over their heads. Four months ago, the House passed the HEROES Act, which includes rental assistance, a uniform national eviction moratorium through March 27, 2021, and funds supporting homelessness service organizations and affordable housing providers who continue to make safe, affordable housing available for the families, youth, and individuals they serve. It is past time to negotiate comprehensive legislation that will provide renters with the assistance they desperately need.

Housing instability and threat of evictions exemplify how the pandemic is falling hardest on the most vulnerable Americans, especially our children. Disruptions to every aspect of children’s lives will have lasting, detrimental effects on their health, safety, and future success. We urge you to act now and in good faith to minimize the impact of this unprecedented public health pandemic on our children’s future.

Sincerely,