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Fed Report Highlights Unpaid Rent Problem Facing 1.3 Million Households at End of Year

  • Researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia determine that 1.34 million households will owe $7.2 billion in back rent at the end of the year
  • Report says just 125,000 households would be in this situation if every unemployed worker had received $600 a week in enhanced benefits
  • Eviction crisis among factors weighing on political leaders seeking to come up with a new COVID-19 relief package

Approximately 1.34 million households could be placed in a year-end financial bind due to back rent, according to a new report by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The report found that these households, about 4.2 percent of all renters in the United States, will owe a total of $7.2 billion by the end of December – about $5,400 per household.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented a national moratorium on evictions in September, but this expires at the end of the year. Researchers emphasized that while federal policies such as stimulus checks and enhanced $600 a week unemployment benefits approved at the beginning of the pandemic helped manage the rental burden faced by households that experienced job loss, but also noted that the relief fell short. Many potential beneficiaries were ineligible for the relief or couldn’t access it, and researchers estimated that the number of households facing rent debt would have fallen to 125,000 had every unemployed American received the $600 a week benefit.

The households facing rent debt at the end of the year include 2.8 million adults and 1.2 million children. The report also found that these households are disproportionately likely to be include people of color or have a woman at the head of the household.

The study says further relief will be necessary to avoid large-scale evictions due to rent debt, echoing a previous appeal by housing industry leaders for Congress to approve $100 billion in emergency rental assistance. Negotiations over a new round of COVID-19 relief  have been ongoing, but partisan differences have hindered the chances of a workable compromise bill.

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