Connect with us

Politics

Housing advocates fear waves of homelessness as moratoriums expire

Published

on

The crippling economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic could force a wave of evictions across the United States as a federal ban and a patchwork of state moratoriums quickly expire, fair housing advocates and legal experts warned.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act that Congress passed in March provided a temporary moratorium on evictions, but it was for a fraction of the nation’s tenants and some homeowners — applying to those in federally subsidized housing or in housing with federally-backed mortgages. That is set to expire within the next month.

This has left courts and local governments in many places to create a patchwork of policies and ever-changing guidance around evictions, creating greater uncertainty and confusion amid the coronavirus pandemic.

At the height of the pandemic, 42 states and the District of Columbia had statewide moratoriums on evictions in place, covering millions of renters, but presently, a little more than a dozen states have some kind of eviction protections in place, Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest University, said.

“So now, less than half the country is covered by an eviction moratorium that isn’t federal in nature,” she said. “And as the unemployment insurance expires at the end of July, along with the majority of the remaining eviction moratoriums, we can expect to see a severe eviction crisis in the United States.”

She added, “And if they lift before federal financial support is in place, the United States will plummet into a major eviction crisis that will have negative consequences for all of society — because when the rent isn’t paid, mortgages and property taxes go unpaid, so states, cities, school districts, landlords, banks, the housing market, entire communities suffer as a result.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are at loggerheads over legislation to ease what experts fear is a widespread housing crisis in the middle of historic unemployment and a rising U.S. death toll from COVID-19.

The Democratic-controlled House passed a $3 trillion relief bill in May, called the HEROES Act, but hit a roadblock in the Republican-controlled Senate. Another bill sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., which recently passed the House, is expected to meet a similar fate. That bill specifically targets housing by extending the eviction moratorium put in place by the CARES Act through March 2021, placing $100 billion into the coffers of COVID-19 rental assistance programs and creating a $75 billion relief fund for homeowners.

President Donald Trump has also signaled he wants to see a “generous” second round of relief payments to Americans, but nothing has materialized.

“There is growing distress,” said Bob Pinnegar, CEO of the National Apartment Association, which represents around 81,000 property owners, developers and other professionals in the apartment industry. “If we get past July, those stimulus dollars will be gone and what we’re hearing is we’re not going to get any real movement from Congress until they get to the eleventh hour, so it’s still crystal ball time.”

Pinnegar recently told NBC News that the group’s members were not broadly affected by the rent strike that was staged across the country in May, but his members are worried about the future. More protections are needed, he said, particularly for smaller landlords.

Paula Cino, a vice president at the National Multifamily Housing Council, which also represents the apartment industry, said that despite various moratoriums expiring, there are still protections and financial assistance available through the CARES Act. However, she added, her organization recognizes the need for a permanent fix from lawmakers.

“We supported a temporary eviction moratorium to overcome the immediate uncertainty — they were only appropriate as a short-term option,” she said. “Now that we found ourselves in a longer-term position, we need to look for longer-term solutions.”

George Gardner III, an attorney at Legal Services NYC, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers, called it a “preventable crisis” that needs more clarity from lawmakers and judges.

Gardner said that in his experience in New York City housing courts, he has seen judges attempt to hastily work through eviction backlogs, language barriers and confusion around pandemic-related housing protections in the law.

Regarding public health concerns in courtrooms, which are often hearing cases from members of the Black and Latinx community he said: “People are trying to save their homes in the middle of a pandemic and people will go to the courts in panic.”

“It’s really a harrowing situation as a practitioner,” he added. “It’s really unfathomable that we would put low- income, already marginalized groups through even greater uncertainty.”

With dwindling federal support, some states and cities have taken the lead on creating rental assistance programs and other measures to provide relief to struggling renters and landlords.

In Los Angeles, the city council in June approved a $100 million rental assistance program, which is expected to give 50,000 households up to $2,000 for two months of rent paid directly to landlords.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, won a legal challenge against a group of landlords fighting his eviction moratorium, which was extended until late August. The New York Legislature also codified the order in a bill called the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which provides greater eviction protections to tenants facing COVID-19 financial hardships.

In Louisiana, however, tenants are facing the possibility of homelessness.

Cashauna Hill, the executive director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, said the state could be an eviction hot spot.

Roughly 31 percent of renters and homeowners in Louisiana either missed last month’s rent or mortgage payments or fear they will not be able to pay it the next month versus 25 percent nationwide, according to a survey by the Census Bureau.

“Even in ‘good economic times, we have failed as a state to provide any sort of protection,” she said. “And so we, unfortunately, haven’t stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide any sort of protection for renters. And so what we’re seeing is that renters are really staring down a cliff.”

Hill said local judges have been working with residents since the eviction moratorium expired in June. However, she stressed the need for federal financial intervention and protections, particularly for the state’s many low-income and minority residents.

“We know that many people, in staying home as a result of the pandemic, lost jobs and lost income, which of course severely impacted their ability to pay rent,” she said. “And so what we really are left with at this time — since Congress hasn’t stepped up since our governor hasn’t yet provided a plan for any sort of rental assistance — is grappling with the fact that we’re going to be forcing people into homelessness for just doing what they needed to do to keep themselves and all of us safe.”

Source link

Politics

Bush to publish book with his paintings of 43 immigrants

Published

on

A new book by former President George W. Bush will highlight an issue which now sets him apart from many of his fellow Republicans — immigration.

Crown announced Thursday that Bush’s “Out Of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” will be published March 2. The book includes 43 portraits by the 43rd president, four-color paintings of immigrants he has come to know over the years, along with biographical essays he wrote about each of them.

“Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants” by George W. Bush.Crown / via AP

Bush, who served as president from 2001-2009, has often praised the contributions of immigrants, a notable contrast to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policies. As president, Bush supported a bipartisan immigration reform bill that narrowly failed to pass in 2007, with opposition coming from both liberals and conservatives.

“While I recognize that immigration can be an emotional issue, I reject the premise that it is a partisan issue. It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us,” Bush writes in the new book’s introduction, noting that he did not want it to come out during the election season. Bush has not endorsed Trump or his presumptive Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“My hope is that this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.”

The book will serve as a companion to an upcoming exhibition at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

“Both ’Out of Many, One” and the exhibition of the same name will include bold, principle-based solutions that comprehensively address the current debate on immigration,” according to Crown. “At the heart of the recommendations is the belief that every year that passes without reforming the nation’s broken system means missed opportunities to ensure the future prosperity, vitality, and security of our country.”

Bush has become a dedicated portrait painter and best-selling author since leaving the White House. His memoir “Decision Points” has sold more than 3 million copies, and his other books include “41,” about his father, former President George H.W. Bush; and a collection of paintings of military veterans, “Portraits of Courage.”

He will donate a portion of his “Out Of Many, One” proceeds to organizations that help immigrants resettle. Financial terms were otherwise not disclosed. Bush was represented by Robert Barnett, the Washington attorney whose other clients have included former President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

The book will be released as a standard trade hardcover and in an autographed deluxe edition, listed for $250, that will be clothbound and contained within a slipcover.

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Trump adds to fractures in worldwide web

Published

on

It may not be possible to have a worldwide internet, after all.

Tech policy experts said Friday that the idea of the internet as one global, unifying phenomenon was at stake after President Donald Trump took the sudden step of announcing bans on two popular Chinese apps, TikTok and WeChat, calling them security risks.

It was an extreme example of Trump using security powers to stifle the spread of technology, and people who study how the internet is governed said his orders will only worsen an international breakup along regional and political lines that’s already years in the making.

“This is definitely the splinternet,” said Dipayan Ghosh, a former Obama White House tech adviser who now directs the Digital Platforms & Democracy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“We’re seeing increasing division between the U.S., Russia, China and the E.U., and clear factions are starting to develop. I don’t think it’s helpful, coming especially as it is from a politicized administration,” he said.

Trump’s action took the form of two executive orders. The one about TikTok in effect formalized a deadline for Microsoft’s ongoing talks to buy much of that company. The other order said the U.S. would ban “any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person” starting in 45 days.

The orders were met by a mix of disgust and confusion from experts who described them as half-baked and tainted by Trump’s strategy of attacking China going into the presidential election.

The ban on WeChat came as a particular surprise. Although TikTok had been a target of White House criticisms for weeks, there had been little warning that a ban on WeChat was in consideration.

“It’s the policy equivalent of a jingoistic temper tantrum,” said Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.

Although WeChat has been the subject of security concerns, including in studies by the Citizen Lab, Deibert said that going so far as to ban it in the U.S. “will produce chaos for internet users and businesses, invite retaliation from China and present a blueprint for authoritarians the world over to emulate.”

One of the only public hints about a WeChat ban came last month, when Trump adviser Peter Navarro said briefly in an interview to “expect strong action” on TikTok and WeChat.

Matt Perault, director of Duke University’s Center on Science & Technology Policy, said there’s little evidence to justify Trump’s allegation that TikTok and WeChat are serious national security risks, and that consumers will suffer from the bans.

“The greatest threat to the global free flow of information no longer comes from the Great Chinese Firewall, but from America’s Grand Cyber Canyon,” Perault said.

To be sure, while the internet was imagined in the 1960s as a “galactic network,” it has never been truly global.

For many years the internet was generally available only to wealthy, mostly white parts of the planet. Only a few companies such as Facebook and Google can claim to be ubiquitous platforms, and even they are not global because their services are mostly unavailable in the world’s most populous country. In that sense, Trump’s action could be a taste of China’s own strategy applied back to them.

But experts said that until now, the U.S. government had largely been a force that opposed the balkanization of the internet.

Trump has changed that, they said, by acting from intentions that aren’t about fighting for a better internet. Last month, Trump spoke about banning Chinese apps such as TikTok as retaliation for China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are ways to build a robust, long-term strategy for securing the digital supply chain, which is a very complicated issue, but that is not what is happening here,” said Justin Sherman, a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.

WeChat has drawn longstanding security complaints from security researchers. In one study published last year and cited by Trump, more than 300 million WeChat private messages were found exposed online. WeChat users also said they believed China censored early discussions about the coronavirus this year.

Australia and India are among the countries that have already begun to scrutinize and restrict WeChat.

Within China, WeChat is ubiquitous, serving as an all-in-one app that’s important for making payments and even for displaying someone’s coronavirus test results.

In the short term, the WeChat order could upend people’s ability to communicate with friends and relatives who are in China or who are part of the global Chinese diaspora. Outside China, WeChat is used primarily for messaging but also has some social media functions similar to Facebook.

“The people who are really hurt are people who have older relatives in China,” said Rui Ma, the host of the “Tech Buzz China” podcast and a tech investor in the Bay Area.

Ma said many WeChat users in the U.S. will simply switch messaging apps, and that some have already begun to do so, but she added, “I think it’s going to be very hard for their parents to figure out how to use a new program.”

A ban within the U.S. would also likely have business implications for any American companies that try to market in China or otherwise contact people there, though it was too early to tell exactly, said Doug Barry, a spokesman for the U.S.-China Business Council.

The ACLU warned that if the order results in a broad restriction on communication, it would violate free speech guarantees.

“This is another abuse of emergency powers under the broad guise of national security,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.

“It would violate the First Amendment rights of users in the United States by subjecting them to civil and possibly criminal penalties for communicating with family members, friends, or business contacts,” she said.

Access Now, a nonprofit that advocates for freedom online, said the orders from Trump mirror censorship tactics in other nations that the U.S. government has decried for more than a decade.

“Arbitrary and disproportionate blocking, based on geopolitical escalation, spurs a race to the bottom, to a world of splintered internets with less cybersecurity and more exposure to overbearing nationalism,” the group said in a statement.

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Trump threatens to circumvent Congress after coronavirus aid talks hit stalemate

Published

on

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to utilize executive orders for coronavirus aid after congressional Democrats and the White House hit an impasse over another round of assistance.

“I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief that they need,” Trump told reporters during an appearance at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club Friday night.

It was unclear what legal authority the president could claim that would allow him to take the majority of the actions he detailed.

Negotiators on both sides expressed pessimism on Friday about finding a compromise that would allow Congress to pass the new round of aid for people in the United States who remain jobless and to help fund efforts to reopen schools in the fall.

In his remarks hours later, Trump said he would extend federal unemployment benefits through the end of the year, but he would not say at what level or what mechanism would allow him to do so. The $600 weekly payments approved by Congress in April expired in July, and Republicans have pushed to lower the payments.

Trump also said he would reduce the payroll tax — a preference of the president that was roundly rejected by members of his own party in Congress — and said he would both seek to extend a moratorium on evictions through the end of the year and to defer student loan payments and stop interest from accruing, although he did not say for how long.

In congressional talks, the sticking points on jobless benefits and assistance for local governments meant the two sides remained more than $1 trillion apart. Democrats said the lowest figure they were willing to accept would be $2 trillion, down from their initial request of $3.4 trillion.

“That’s a nonstarter,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in response. Congressional Republicans have made offers closer to $1 trillion.

The president had argued in a Friday tweet that Democrats had asked for extra money for “poorly run Democrat cities and states” for expenses unrelated to the coronavirus. Democrats and some Republicans have said aid for local governments is needed amid a financial crunch sparked by the coronavirus pandemic to ensure vital services like police and firefighters are able to continue operating.

He insisted in his Friday night remarks that despite criticism of his absence from the talks he had been involved in negotiations by staying in regular contact with Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“They’re constantly on the phone with me, I’m totally involved with it and we’re going to do it in a way that’s much easier,” Trump said.

The lack of a deal means another week without the boosted unemployment payments. The Department of Labor revealed in the monthly jobs report Friday that the national unemployment rate is at 10.2 percent and indicated that economic recovery may be flagging.

Mnuchin; Meadows; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., emerged from talks Friday without a resolution. Neither side ruled out returning to the negotiating table.

“It was a disappointing meeting,” Schumer said. “They said they couldn’t go much above their existing $1 trillion, and that was disappointing.”

Negotiators on both sides offered dour assessments of the talks Friday, publicly criticizing each other over the failure to reach a compromise.

Trump first threatened Thursday that if a deal was not reached by the end of the week — a largely arbitrary deadline — then he would utilize executive orders to circumvent Congress and enact the jobless benefits and an eviction moratorium on his own. Democratic leaders have already warned they would file lawsuits to stop him, since the power to fund programs is constitutionally given to Congress.

White House negotiators indicated they have no current plans to meet again and that the president could act on executive orders over the weekend.

“The chief and I will recommend to the president, based upon our lack of activity today, to move forward with some executive orders,” Mnuchin told reporters after Friday’s meeting.

The two sides have been unable to agree on just how much money should be spent in the bill, a byproduct of their inability to find compromise on the specifics.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks next to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Aug. 7, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

“We are committed to negotiating,” Schumer said. “And as we said, we are willing to make compromises,” he added, calling the latest Democratic proposal “a very fair offer.”

“And you should’ve seen the vehemence: ‘No!'” he said of the White House response.

Schumer told reporters that $2 trillion was the lowest level of aid that would still draw enough Democratic votes to pass the House and the Senate. Leaders from both parties have already indicated they expect minimal Republican support in Congress, necessitating robust Democratic backing.

Schumer blamed the broken negotiations on Meadows, who before serving as Trump’s chief of staff led the most conservative group in the House.

“Mr. Meadows is from the tea party. You have 20 Republicans in the Senate greatly influenced by them, and they don’t want to spend the necessary dollars to help get America out of this mess,” he said. “Ideology sort of blinds them.”

The greater than trillion-dollar gap remaining between the parties includes their disagreement on the continued unemployment benefits. Congress created a $600-a-week additional payment for people who are jobless earlier this year but was unable to find a deal to extend the payments after they expired at the end of July.

The two sides also remain apart on how school funding should be disbursed. Pelosi told reporters the White House wants the money to go largely to schools that reopen; Democrats want the aid to also fund schools that are unable to reopen and must spend to launch and implement distance-learning programs.

Julie Tsirkin, Rebecca Shabad, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Haley Talbot contributed.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending