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Renters, landlords brace for end of extra assistance

Apartment landlords across the United States spent the last days of March holding their collective breath while waiting for rent checks to come in.

For the most part, they did, thanks to the $2 trillion in emergency relief authorized by Congress to blunt the economic blow of the pandemic. Now, expanded unemployment benefits are expiring and many eviction bans are set to lift, leaving tenants and building owners wondering again what will happen when the bills are due.

One in three renters failed to make their full payment in the first week of July, an Apartment List survey showed. Nearly 12 million renters could be served with eviction notices in the next four months, according to an analysis by advisory firm Stout Risius Ross.

The pandemic spurred mass layoffs beginning in March, and renters have been scraping by on a combination of savings, credit card debt, unemployment benefits and federal stimulus money. Roughly 11 million renters spend at least half of their income to keep a roof over their heads in normal times, and the first wave of job cuts skewed toward lower-paying retail and hospitality workers who are less likely to have emergency savings.

A one-time payment of $1,200 helped, as did eviction moratoriums passed by local, state and federal governments. Congress authorized $600 a week in unemployment insurance on top of what states provide. In some cases, the benefits exceeded what workers were paid while employed.

That extra boost will expire at the end of the month without action by Congress. The Trump administration and Senate Republicans just released their $1 trillion plan for another round of virus relief, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others have described as an extension of portions of the last stimulus. The proposal is their opening bid in talks with House Democrats, who approved a $3.5 trillion package in May.

Congress’ quick action to give aid this spring has shown the upside of being more generous. Adults who received unemployment benefits were far less likely to report they were worried about making rent or mortgage payments compared to those who hadn’t gotten the relief, according to a survey conducted in May.

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