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♪ ("LAST WEEK TONIGHT" THEME PLAYS) ♪
Moving on. Our main story tonight concerns
the coronavirus.
Among other things, the worst thing to happen
to weddings since flash mobs.
And the reason we're talking about it,
is that we have a huge COVID related catastrophe
that's actually just around the corner.
REPORTER: Hundreds of tenants rallying this week,
demanding rent relief.
They warn, the next few months could see the largest number
of eviction cases, ever.
Yeah. As if things weren't already bad enough,
in the middle of a pandemic, we may be about to see
evictions on the rise.
And on the list of things you hope never to see
on the rise, evictions have to be right up at the top,
tied of course, with Larry King's penis.
That thing going up, is just not what
our current situation requires.
And while evictions rising is shocking,
it was also completely foreseeable.
Coronavirus has played havoc with employment,
making it difficult for many to make rent,
which was always going to have significant consequences
given that one third of U.S. households are renters,
and renters tend to have lower incomes than homeowners
in the first place.
And while stimulus checks, expanded unemployment insurance
and state and federal moratoriums
on evictions undoubtably helped hold back the tide,
those mechanisms are now starting to run out or expire.
And if we do nothing, experts are predicting
horrific outcomes, with millions of people left vulnerable.
This is the worst economic crisis
the United States has seen in generations.
If nothing else changes, and evictions continue as normal
than this public health crisis will turn into a full-blown
homelessness crisis.
It's true. The coronavirus crisis could also soon turn
into a full-blown homelessness crisis.
And it's hard to even fathom something already so bad
transforming into something else so appalling.
It's like finding out that Magikarp,
objectively the worst Pokémon for obvious reasons,
is set to evolve into Kevin Spacey.
I should have traded you for Psyduck when I had the chance.
And it says something about the utter absurdity
of what's about to happen, that this is how
some eviction hearings will be taking place.
REPORTER 2: Starting with tomorrow's docket,
Judge Lopez will start hearing eviction cases.
Either in the court, using webcams
with the defendant and the plaintiff
in separate rooms, over Zoom, or even on the phone.
What are you doing?
You know it might be worth thinking twice about what
you're taking part in, if you're throwing people
out of their homes via Zoom, a platform your only using
because it's not safe for people to leave their homes.
Besides Zoom shouldn't be where you find out
you're getting evicted. It should be where you find out
in a virtual happy hour, which one of your coworkers
has been secretly rich the whole time.
I'm sorry, Joanna has a chandelier?
Where did she get chandelier money?
Why don't I have chandelier money?
Look, the fact is, we are about to go out of our way
to throw people out of their homes
at the worst possible time.
And even in normal times,
evictions are incredibly damaging,
with long, long term effects.
On the community level they've been linked to
heightened residential instability,
substandard housing, declines in neighborhood quality
and job loss. And on the individual level,
they can be completely devastating
in ways you may not even realize.
From families losing their possessions,
and having to start over, to significant difficulties
in obtaining new housing, something that can be hard to do
with an eviction on your record.
Evictions have consequences that can haunt you
for the rest of your life.
So tonight, with rent due in just three days,
we thought it might be a good time
to talk about evictions.
And let's start with the fact, that the lack
of affordable housing is yet another systemic problem
that the coronavirus has thrown into harsh relief.
Because, to be clear, it was a crisis in this country
long before the pandemic struck.
With rents so high, and renters so burdened,
that stories like these became a staple on local news.
REPORTER 3: A chaotic scene
as hundreds make a run for the door
and a chance at Dallas County housing vouchers.
At least eight people suffered injuries while trying
to line up this morning.
I saw people run, so I started running and I slipped and fell
all over the pavement.
REPORTER 4: Jordan Spivey's all scuffed up after taking quite a tumble
this morning, but grateful she wasn't trampled too.
Holy shit! No one should ever be trampled by a crowd
of people out of desperation to get rental assistance.
There are only two times
when trampling is remotely acceptable,
the day after Thanksgiving--
that's America's national trampling holiday--
and whatever day in the future the PS5 comes out.
I don't care that it looks like an alien's waffle maker,
or a penguin designed by Apple, it's gonna have
Horizon Forbidden West as an exclusive release,
and I will stomp anyone who stands between me
and that game. I want to murder dinosaur robots
with flaming arrows, and I want to do it now.
Now, that particular stampede, was nearly a decade ago
but unfortunately, the problem has only
gotten worse since then.
Rents have risen significantly faster than income
to the point where, for renters below the poverty line,
the majority are spending more than half of their income
on housing. And a quarter are paying 70 percent of more,
which is just not remotely sustainable.
Meanwhile, around a million households have been evicted
each year, for over a decade.
And all of this disproportionately impacts
people of color, as Black household for instance,
are twice as likely as white household to face
eviction, and women of color, particularly Black women,
are especially vulnerable to it.
So, things have clearly been bad for a long time,
but once the pandemic hit, like everything else,
they got even worse.
And yet, you might have assumed that there was
a freeze on rent payments if you listened
to decomposing melon Larry Kudlow laying out
the Trump administration's plans back in March.
Don't forget also please, regarding things
like rent payments or,
rental home loans,
all that will-- evictions, let me add that.
All that will be put on hold.
There will be no evictions during this period.
Now, that sounds great.
Especially, if what you took from it was
"No rent, no evictions."
But that's not actually what he's saying there.
The policy he's describing only paused evictions, not rent.
Meaning that for those unable to pay,
the bills they owe have just been piling up this whole time.
Also, the policy only applied to certain properties
like those with federally backed mortgages, which account for
just a quarter of all rental units.
So as far as comprehensive plans to stem this crisis,
it leaves a lot out.
Much the same way in fact that, Larry Kudlow's wife
leaves a lot out of her many paintings
of her husband's clothes.
Specifically what she leaves out is her husband
because, as we've mentioned before on this show,
there is simply nothing that she likes to do more
than paint her husband's ties, over and over and over
and over again, in a joyous celebration
of the absence of Larry Kudlow.
And, quick side note here.
When we first brought this up, months ago,
we offered anyone 10 US dollars plus a 20,000-dollar donation
to their local food bank, if they were willing to sell us
one of these genuine, Larry-less masterpieces.
And everything's been so busy that we haven't had the chance
to reveal something to you. And that is...
we actually got one! And, let me tell you,
the absence of Larry, is even more striking in person.
Look, the point is, the federal moratorium
on evictions left a lot of people unprotected
and while several dozen states put in place
their own moratoriums, many of those protections have
already expired. Leaving renters in 23 states,
with no state-level protection from eviction.
Meaning many tenants are forced to rely on the kindness
of their landlords. Some of whom, to their credit,
have worked with their tenants and have reduced the rent owed.
Or, have stepped up in even bigger ways, like this guy.
REPORTER 5: Mario Salerno owns roughly
eighty apartments in his hometown of Williamsburg.
He knows the pain so many are going through.
So he decided this month, to waive rent for everyone.
Everyone. 200 tenants and he is not collecting.
For me, it was more important for people's health,
and worrying about who can put food
on who's table.
I had tenants who said they can't work,
they didn't have money to pay me,
I says, "Don't worry about paying me,
worry about your neighbor."
That's great, that's very generous.
But unfortunately, the solution clearly can't be
to count on everyone being like that guy,
if for no other reason than if everyone was like that guy
we'd be forced to make a Sopranos reboot
that was essentially just, Oops! All Silvios.
And nobody wants that, not even Silvio.
He balked at his brief tenure being the skipper,
he couldn't handle the crown, let's just let him stay
where he's comfortable.
And the truth is, rather than emulating that guy,
some landlords have gone the opposite way, even trying
to threaten tenants despite the protections in place.
REPORTER 5: Courtney is still in disbelief.
As she reads through the most recent emails
from her landlord.
She says on March 31st, she told the landlord
who lives in Canada, that April rent would be late.
Days later...
"Just pay the rent, or move out."
REPORTER 5: The emails started.
"You lying (CENSORED).
Both you and your grandmother can go online
and (CENSORED) yourselves."
Wow.
That isn't just horrifying, it also effectively demolishes
every Canadian's stereotype I've previously held.
'Cause it seems, there's a new type of Canadian
that none of us have known about and it's
the hard-hearted bad boy, that tells you
and your grandma to go fuck yourselves.
Now, luckily, that woman's governor had ordered
a freeze on evictions for those affected by COVID,
which covered her situation.
And when that local news reporter
pointed that out to her landlord,
his response was pretty remarkable.
REPORTER 5: He sent us a colorful email.
In it, he apologized for the profanity,
and eventually said he's willing to waive her late fees
plus half the April rent which he would lose anyway
if he had to find a new tenant.
And they can both get on with quote,
"our miserable lives."
Okay, whatever you think of that landlord's behavior,
I will say this: That is just, objectively,
the correct way to end any email in 2020.
(READS PROMPT)
And the thing is, even when landlords
and property managers obeyed the moratoriums,
they often made it painfully clear
that tenets were gonna be evicted
on the first available opportunity.
I'm, uh, notoriously a landlord
that doesn't generally let tenets get by with, uh,
any exceptions.
REPORTER 6: Even as court hearings are temporarily on hold,
he's moving forward with filing evictions
and attempting to collect.
It's never fun throwing, you know--
throwing a single mother and their three kids
out on the streets, that's not fun,
but it's business.
Okay, first of all, never say never.
What if the three kids in question
were baby Hitler, baby Stalin, and Donald Trump Jr.,
and their single mom was Ghislaine Maxwell?
That's a pretty fun eviction right there.
That foursome could frankly use a little time on the street.
But what is happening in that example
is actually really important. Because many
of those moratoriums prevent the physical act
of eviction, but, they don't stop
the legal process that leads up to it.
Many landlords and property managers
have been able to file for evictions in court
this whole time. Meaning cases have just
been piling and piling and piling up.
And as soon as moratoriums are lifted,
which is already happening in many places,
evictions could come fast.
And some landlords will tell you that the current situation
simply isn't their fault, and that their tenants
should have somehow prepared better.
One property management company
actually made that argument to a local Denver news crew,
who then played the audio to one of the company's tenants.
And just wait until you see his response.
VICKY PELTON: I mean, I understand
that everybody's in a state of fear and panic right now,
but it's not the property owner's responsibility.
We have to plan for a rainy day. Everybody should be planning
for a rainy day.
Maybe you should have saved for the rainy day, just sayin'.
Yeah. That's a fair point.
Because why are renters consistently
the only ones being told that they
should have planned better? It's important to remember,
everyone is in this crisis together right now.
And this isn't just a rainy day,
it's the great flood. And one reason no one
has an umbrella, is 'cause it's not safe
to reopen the fucking umbrella factory yet.
And in the face of an extreme crisis,
some tenants are understandably calling for drastic measures
like rent strikes.
We are out here today to demand
that the city, the state, and the federal government
cancel the rents. We need rent cancellation.
Every month we're accumulating more and more and more debt.
So there's no way we're going to be able
to repay that back.
A lot of us are already choosing between food and rent.
We're saying to choose food.
The same way they bailout banks,
they should bailout working families like mine.
Yeah, of course. We should absolutely
treat families, at least as well
as we treat banks.
Who can apparently, like Wells Fargo,
just re-establish themselves whenever they get in trouble.
In fact, next time your landlord
asks you for your last three months of rent,
why not tell them that they're mistaken,
that rent was owed by the previous you,
the current you was re-established
on July 1st of 2020, and you're ready
for a fresh start.
And look, rent strikes are a risk.
Ultimately, you could end up being evicted for non-payment,
which remember, could make it harder
to get housing in the future. And depending
on your landlord's situation, they might be unable
to meet property taxes to go toward funding
essential city services. So they are not
without consequences, but, you can see why many
have been pushing for them, or indeed,
for rent cancellation, because people are desperate.
And strikes have been an effective way
of calling attention to how dire things are
right now. And while long-term,
we desperately need a plan to fix
our affordable housing crisis, in the short-term,
we just have to find a way to keep people in their homes.
And although some cities are trying to provide
rental assistance, the limited funds
at their disposal make it difficult to address
the scope of the problem. Take Houston,
they established a 15 million dollar
rental relief fund, and this is what happened.
REPORTER 6: Fifteen million dollars gone in just 90 minutes.
Money that was dedicated to help families pay their rent
during this pandemic.
TREVOR: We are not able to accept your application--
REPORTER 6: Rita and Trevor had applied for 1,800 bucks
in rental assistance. They won't be getting
that help though, because by the time
they applied online this morning,
the money was already gone.
Fifteen million dollars gone within an hour?
Come on now.
Yeah. It's shocking to watch
fifteen million dollars disappear in 90 minutes.
I mean, not quite as shocking as watching 175 million dollars
disappear in around the same time, but still,
you know, shocking.
And the thing is, the city of Houston
knew going in that this gonna be an issue.
They even tweeted after the fact,
we understand this is nowhere near enough
to meet the need of all Houstonians.
And the fact the city directly encouraged people
to reach out to their representatives
to advocate for greater funding.
Because the truth is, cities can only do so much
without federal intervention. But they have essentially
the same amount of power as the servants
of Downton Abbey. Sure, they do what they can,
but at a certain point, when things get really bad,
they're gonna have to take this shit upstairs.
Now in a much bolder move, the city of Ithaca, New York,
is currently in the process of trying to cancel rent
for those affected by this pandemic.
And is calling on the state to provide funding
for landlords who need relief.
And that is an interesting idea. Although, again,
it requires the people upstairs, like the state,
and ultimately the federal government, to act.
And unfortunately, they have dragged their feet
on offering solutions for renters
that remotely meet the scale of this crisis.
Back in May, to its credit, the house passed
The Heroes Act, which provided 100 billion dollars
in rental assistance for the most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, since then, the bill has stalled out
in the senate, which is frankly no surprise,
as multiple high-level Republicans
have expressed their reticence to pass another relief package.
I think that, uh, many people would like
to just pause for a moment and take a look
at the economic impact of this, uh,
massive assistance program.
If the economy, uh, continues the momentum
that we're beginning to see over the last couple
of weeks of data, that I think that one
might conclude that the stimulus
that we already passed is enough.
We need to assess what we've already done,
take a look at what worked and what didn't,
and, uh, we'll discuss the way forward.
Uh, in the next couple weeks.
Oh, in a couple of weeks, really?
Well, here's the thing, that was back in May,
we're now at the end of June, nothing has been passed,
and rent is due on fucking Wednesday.
That said, I do know that time simply
does not function the same way for Mitch McConnell
as it does for everyone else, for instance, for us,
today is June 28th, but for him,
based on the way that he generally thinks,
speaks, and behaves, the current date
is somewhere around May 12th, 1853.
And look, the sad truth is, we've already waited
too long here. And there is absolutely
no excuse for not attacking this problem
with real urgency. Because while we wait
for Congress to act, people like this woman
are having to deal with the consequences.
REPORTER 7: Kiana Ashley is being evicted.
And a nightmare is unfolding for her
and her five-year-old son, Nazeer.
That's something I wouldn't wish
on my worst enemy. Because not knowing
where you're going to rest your head at
for the next day, that's not good.
Yeah, of course it's not good. Everyone deserves
the basic stability of shelter.
And if you are in a position where you've begun
to despise that house that you've been shut inside
for the past three and a half months,
it is worth remembering, the only thing worse
than knowing you're going to spend another day
stuck under the same roof, is not knowing that.
And while there are clearly no perfect options here,
the very worst thing that we could do right now
is nothing.
Because every day we fail to act is a day
we're compounding another future crisis
for millions of vulnerable renters
and their communities. We need to stop this
before it gets even worse. And in the long term,
we badly need to solve our affordable housing crisis,
because then and only then, if I may quote
the world's rudest Canadian,
"Can we all get on with our miserable lives?"