A 'Tsunami Of Evictions' Threatens New Jersey

NJToday.net — June 30, 2020

By Andrew Thompson

As coronavirus cases continue to fall and the economy brightens for the moment, some communities in New Jersey are bracing for a new threat: a surge of evictions that could push thousands of people from their homes.

A disproportionate number will of the victims be Black or Latino, due to endemic economic inequality among those population groups, but no provisions were included in federal legislation enacted by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and President Donald Trump.

Even with rampant unemployment in the state, most residents have been able to stay put, thanks to enhanced unemployment benefits and an executive order from Governor Phil Murphy banning evictions during the pandemic.

Those protections are slated to end this summer — putting roughly 120,000 households at risk of being unable to make their housing payments, according to Democratic congressional challenger Lisa McCormick.

Evictions are a terrible ordeal for those displaced by them, and many are about to start happening across the country due to the economic impact of the botched COVID response.

McCormick blamed her opponent, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, for helping President Donald Trump enact a multi-trillion dollar COVID-19 emergency bailout package that distributed almost all the benefits to the richest Americans while leaving ordinary workers, retirees and millions of newly unemployed people with nothing but a one-time handout.

"Congress should have put people first, but instead Bonnie and Trump pulled off a bigger caper than Bonnie and Clyde ever dreamed of," said McCormick. "The cost of their $6 trillion corporate bailout is not just the outlay of taxpayer money but also the economic catastrophe that is going to befall millions of Americans who are unable to pay rent or maintain the mortgage loans that keep them in housing."

"The new bailout bill, which combined with a series of Federal Reserve interventions is more like a $6 trillion rescue, is a massive double-down on the 2008 rescue efforts. This bailout of the last bailout sets the stage for permanent state sponsorship of America's overheated financial markets," said Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi. "Like 2008, only more so, the new mega-rescue is a bipartisan effort. Lawmakers sold this as a good thing."

While the housing crisis is worsening, officials have not adequately addressed the issue but McCormick said some tenants may be eligible for up to six months of emergency rental assistance.

As many as 40 percent of New Jerseyans have someone in their home who's lost a job due to the pandemic, and that group is disproportionately comprised of Black and Latino families.

"In the past couple months, the business interests and needs have taken center stage in all of the conversations that have taken place around how we're going to recover economically from the COVID-19 epidemic," said Dena Mottola Jaborksa, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action.

Bonnie Watson Coleman is New Jersey's first African American woman elected to Congress, but she failed to include protection for groups most harmed in the emergency spending package that provided tax cuts for millionaires and corporate welfare for highly profitable businesses.

The federal CARES Act passed at the end of March — which Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman helped President Donald Trump enact — included a hold on eviction action that primarily applies only to buildings with at least five apartments but that is coming to an end in July.

"Legislation providing vital relief and protections for communities of color and New Jersey's most vulnerable has been stalled, gutted, ignored or put aside entirely by the New Jersey Legislature, as corporate lobbyists work to block or weaken the bills, or as the Legislature continues to dig their heels in against the adoption of new revenue sources needed to fund these vitally needed programs," said Jaborksa.

Evictions are expected to soar in New Jersey courts as Murphy's 90 day moratorium and the state Supreme Court's suspension of landlord-tenant cases come to an end.

A majority of the country's 43.8 million renting households have lost at least some of their income in the coronavirus shutdown, a much higher share than homeowners.

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