There is no doubt, we are in unprecedented times. The federal government has passed three significant coronavirus response bills. Included in these packages have been significant changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), expanded unemployment, and stimulus payments to most American families. However, a new report from our partners at the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) points out that this isn’t enough to keep the most vulnerable stably housed. In The Need For Emergency Rental Assistance During the COVID-19 Economic Crisis, NLIHC says rental assistance is needed and estimates that cost to be approximately $99.5 billion.
In Missouri, 87% of our households with extremely low incomes are cost burdened, paying over 30% of their income to rent. This means the vast majority of our families with very low wages were on the precipice of homelessness even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Paying so much of your income for housing can only be sustained short term. These families were already one flat tire, one trip to the emergency room, one incident away from not being able to pay their rent.
The very same families are also more likely to be impacted by coronavirus for two reasons:
- Many of these wage earners worked low-paying jobs that are now furloughed, such as food service or childcare. With such a quick and drastic drop in income, these workers are struggling to meet their basic needs, including housing.
- People experiencing poverty are more likely to be in poor health, increasing their vulnerability to coronavirus. Certainly people experiencing homelessness will struggle to maintain adequate hygiene to stop transmission of the virus. Rates of adverse health conditions such as asthma and diabetes are higher in individuals experiencing poverty, and these conditions make them more likely to become infected with coronavirus and to experience more severe cases.
With the recently released report from NLIHC, we have an estimate of the amount of relief needed at the federal level for renters with low incomes to stay housed for the next 12 months. Empower Missouri has also partnered with some of our local organizations to ask for rental and mortgage payment relief and a ban on utility shut offs at the state level. It is clear now more than ever, that housing is healthcare. Stable housing is key to containing the virus and preserving human life. Please join us in reaching out to Governor Parson here.
Sarah Owsley Townsend
Manager of Policy and Organizing
P.S. Brooke Schipporeit of NLIHC was the guest speaker on our April 9th Empowering You Webinar and focused on COVID-19 and State and Federal Housing policy. To access a recording of that webinar, go to this link. Also if housing advocacy is your passion, please plan to join our next Affordable Housing Coalition meeting on Monday, April 13th, at 2 p.m.