Cori Bush Wants To Help People Not Get Kicked Out Of Their Homes (Again)
Now that the national eviction moratorium is over, there are 11 million households facing eviction. That's not good, both for humanitarian reasons and for reasons of "it's going to be a mess that's a hell of a lot harder to clean up than it would be had the eviction moratorium not ended."
There is, however, help available for those who need it. As part of the American Rescue Plan, there is $46.5 billion available in rental assistance for those in need. But so far, only $5.1 billion of that has been given out. Why? Well probably because people don't know it exists or, if they do, how to go about getting it.
Thus, Democratic Rep. Cori Bush, who herself has been unhoused, is introducing legislation titled the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Improvement Act of 2021, which is meant to make it easier for people who need that help to get it.
"It is our duty as lawmakers to ensure the 11 million households currently at risk of eviction can safely remain in their homes for the duration of this deadly global pandemic," said Rep. Bush said in a press release. "The Supreme Court's failure to protect these individuals and families has only increased the urgency with which Congress must act to get emergency rental assistance to those who need it most. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program Improvement Act will help make these funds more accessible by allowing individuals and families to apply for assistance at places that are central to their communities — schools, libraries, the post office, among others. As someone who has been evicted and unhoused, I know the trauma these families are facing. This crisis demands compassionate solutions and I urge my colleagues to consider the humanity of our neighbors who could soon find themselves without a home unless drastic action is taken."
The act will make it so people can go to various public entities and apply for Emergency Rental Assistance, places like K-12 schools, the post office, public libraries, public transit systems, the DMV, eviction courts, and federal, state, and local social service providers. Those distributing ERA funds will work with these entities to "distribute, and assist with individual applications" and there will be increased funding to help them do that.
This legislation literally meets people where they are at, which is great. Too often, there is help out there for those who need it, but they don't end up getting it because they don't know what it is, what they qualify for, what paperwork they have to fill out, where to go, who to talk to. We don't exactly tend to go the Occam's Razor route with regard to social assistance, and that needs to change. What good is having great social programs if no one knows how to make use of them?
As of January 2020, there were 580,466 unhoused people in the United States. There are already not enough beds in shelters for all of those people, and having 22 times that number is not going to end well. We literally cannot afford the "luxury" of that many unhoused people. Eleven and a half million, by the way, is still less than 17 million, which is how many empty homes we have in this country.
I understand that lots of people think there has to be a better way to do this, without extending eviction moratoriums, without making it easier for people to get rental assistance, some way that won't "reward laziness" and will "encourage personal responsibility." But that is a fantasy 10,000 times less realistic than my wacky, idealistic pipe dreams of universal healthcare, childcare, housing and higher education. Because while other countries actually have those things in real life, no country on earth, no planet we know of, has figured out how to make this shit work.
We've got 328 million American citizens who, at the very minimum, need food, shelter, healthcare and jobs. The problem is, many employers don't want to pay people enough to afford the amount of rent the landlords want to charge. That is a problem that cannot possibly be solved by people being less lazy or "taking personal responsibility," because we actually need people to do the jobs employers want to pay people jackshit for. There are a number of ways we can solve this dilemma, but the answer simply cannot be "Welp, guess a lot of people have to not have homes, that is the way the cookie crumbles," or we will all be fucked.
Wonkette is independent and fully funded by readers like you. Click below to tip us!
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse