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July 24, 2020

VIDEO: Rep. Pressley Questions Experts on the Impending Eviction Tsunami

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – In a House Financial Services Committee hearing yesterday, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) discussed the unprecedented financial cliff facing millions of renters and homeowners, the economic consequences of millions losing their homes, including the ability to return to work, and why funding for legal representation is so critical.

A full transcript of her remarks and exchange with witnesses is available below.

Transcript: Rep. Pressley Questions Experts on the Impending Eviction Tsunami
House Committee on Financial Services
uly 23, 2020

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Chairwoman Waters and thank you to our witnesses for joining us today.

2008’s financial crisis was a Great Depression-level event for Black Americans, wiping out decades of gains in Black home-ownership, which has now fallen to its lowest rate since the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Former homeowners became renters. By 2018, nearly 60 percent of Black households rented their home.

This weekend, the last unemployment checks will go out and the limited eviction moratorium will expire. Next weekend, the rent will be due and 30 percent of Americans have little to no confidence that they will make it.

In short, we are staring down an unprecedented financial cliff, but the necessary sense of urgency seems to be limited to this chamber.

Secretary Reich, as bluntly as possible, what is the economic impact of millions losing their housing all at once?

SEC. REICH: As clearly and as sharply as I can possibly articulate this, Congresswoman, the effect will be catastrophic. Not only the personal suffering of people who become homeless or have to move in with others, but also the public health consequences in a pandemic of more crowding, more density, more passage of the infection. And thirdly, a huge problem with regard to stimulating the economy, because you see, people who are homeless or who are with others or in more dense quarters, it’s going to be very, very hard for them to be either productive members of society, but also productive consumers in terms of stimulating the economy. So, on every check mark, it is going to be a disaster. 

REP. PRESSLEY: And for my colleagues concerned with “getting people back to work,” how difficult will it be for those who are losing their housing to reenter the workforce versus those who are able to stay in their homes?

SEC. REICH: The data we have on past recessions and also people who’ve lost their housing even in a non-recession situation, suggests that it is going to be very, very hard. If you are homeless, or if you don’t have a permanent address, it is extremely difficult to even find a job. To even make an application for a job. You lose the moorings and anchor that a house or a home gives you. You also lose the capacity to communicate with potential employers. It is in every respect a gigantic problem for people, and it’s coming up. I agree with you, it’s right around the corner. 

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you and we know the burden of this eviction tsunami will disproportionately fall on Black renters, Black women in particular.

In my home state of Massachusetts, Black renters are almost two and a half times more likely to have an eviction filed against them, while Black women are three times as likely to have evictions filed against them that are ultimately dismissed — a stain that remains on their credit report, nonetheless.

In fact today, a study from City Life/Vida Urbana found that almost eighty percent of the Boston eviction cases currently suspended by the moratorium are in neighborhoods of color.

Secretary Donovan, many renters covered by the CARES Act still faced illegal evictions. How likely is the average renter to know their rights against their landlord?

SEC. DONOVAN: Unfortunately, we find so often that families either are not aware of their rights or are afraid to ask for assistance because of numerous issues, including their status and other forms of discrimination. And so one of the things in addition to the important provisions that are in the Heroes Act in terms of rental assistance and eviction prevention, is investments both in housing counseling that help to inform renters and owners about their rights, as well as assistance for legal representation. Legal aid has been a very powerful tool that we saw in the mortgage crisis to make sure that there is assistance available, to know your rights, and to be fairly represented. I would also add that we are absolutely seeing, even before the evictions begin if the moratorium expires, terrible choices being made between putting food on the table because housing is the single biggest expense, I think it’s enormously important your investment in SNAP and the expansion of food assistance as well in the Heroes Act. 

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you and New York was the first city to launch Right to Counsel. So in addition to a nationwide moratorium on evictions, do you agree it is critical that we ensure legal representation for those facing evictions? Yes or no.

SEC. DONOVAN: As a proud New Yorker, I would absolutely agree. 

REP. PRESSLEY: Very good. Well, I’m pleased that the Heroes Act did include my bill and Representative Tlaib’s bill, the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act, which provides over $11 billion in critical funding to local and state efforts to protect those facing homelessness during this pandemic.

However, without intervention, the number of people experiencing homelessness will skyrocket.

Thank you and I yield.


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