The New Yorker - It is now clear that the twin prescriptions of social isolation and shuttering large parts of the national economy have lowered the death toll of the novel coronavirus in the United States from the direst predictions. But in a country where the “social safety net” is more a distant memory than a source of actual provision or support, large swaths of the public now face the threat of hunger and homelessness. Each passing week brings more questions about what our cities and states will look like when the shelter-in-place orders are lifted; they also bring us one week closer to the rent coming due.
By May 6th, twenty per cent of tenants had not paid this month’s rent, a slight improvement over the twenty-two per cent who did not pay last month’s rent in the first week. This is probably the result of renters receiving increased unemployment and stimulus checks, but it is also unsustainable. Republicans have vowed not to renew the extra unemployment money when it comes up for a vote again in July, and most states are running out of funding to make their shares of the payments. Meanwhile, in a matter of weeks, a staggering thirty-three million people have filed for unemployment, and the future of millions more hangs in the balance. April’s unemployment rate was nearly fifteen per cent, a height of joblessness not reached since the Great Depression. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that by the fall, the official unemployment rate could rise even higher, to sixteen per cent.
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