News happens quickly in these pandemic days.
On Aug. 31, a report from Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service outlined the dire possibilities ahead for those unable to pay for their housing. "As many as 40 million Americans — including 357,000 Kansans — face the risk of eviction in the next several months," McLean wrote.
While federal assistance had made many whole over the spring and summer, allowing them to pay bills and buy food, much of that aid ended in August.
Without the support? An unprecedented wave of foreclosures and evictions.
But on Sept. 1, something happened. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which one doubts many imagine had such power to begin with), issued its own eviction moratorium through December. The CDC defined the matter as one of public health.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: This is a tremendously welcome order and one that will make a big difference to Kansans. The federal government doesn’t always come through, so we should recognize when it does.
On the other hand, a moratorium also creates serious, long-term problems. It doesn’t actually change the amount that renters or those with mortgages owe. That means that many could face a titanic financial cliff, right at the end of the year. It also leaves landlords, some of whom are everyday folks, holding the bag.
The answer is obvious to everyone, except perhaps to Congress.
Another COVID-29 relief package must pass, and it must again include expanded unemployment benefits. In an ideal world, those expanded benefits would last well into 2021, and beyond if necessary. That package should also include benefits for small-business owners and others — including landlords — who are seeing their economic foundations shaken by the pandemic and its aftershocks.
This isn’t a handout. This is about preventing another Great Depression. Quick action by Congress in the spring prevented unnecessary suffering. Inaction by Congress is now causing unnecessary suffering.
We all face the question at various points in our lives: When should we act? Is this the right moment? Am I doing the right thing? How do I know?
This is the right moment, and the right thing to do. The time for action is now, or we will see harm come to millions of Americans and thousands upon thousands of Kansans. The power to prevent this suffering is in the hands of the U.S. Congress.