Above Photo: Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair
For Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO), sleeping away from the comfort of a bed is an unfortunately familiar feeling. Years ago, Bush had to live out of her car for a time with her two young children, all while working a full-time job.
Her experience as an unhoused person drove her to take bold action on July 30, as the federal eviction moratorium was about to expire.
“Many of my Democratic colleagues chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes,” Bush tweeted. “I’ll be sleeping outside the Capitol tonight. We’ve still got work to do.”
Many of my Democratic colleagues chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes.
I’ll be sleeping outside the Capitol tonight. We’ve still got work to do. pic.twitter.com/9l52lWBM73
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) July 31, 2021
For three nights she and other advocates slept on the steps of the Capitol, intermittently joined by House colleagues, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Presley.
Bush also introduced the Unhoused Bill of Rights, a federal resolution calling on Congress to permanently end the unhoused crisis by 2025.
Ultimately, Bush’s organizing succeeded. On August 3, the Biden administration announced a 60-day eviction ban for U.S. counties with “substantial and high levels of community transmission,” which applies to approximately 90 percent of renters across the country.
The federal eviction moratorium coincided with Black Women’s Equal Pay Day 2021, which marks the number of days into the year that the average Black woman has to work to catch up to the average white man’s annual earnings in 2020. Based on recent Census data, Black women make just 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.
If Black women’s earnings continue to grow as slowly as they have since the mid-1980s, it will take them more than 100 years — until 2133 — to reach pay equity with white men.
“Lower pay deprives Black women of resources they need to provide for themselves and their families and over a lifetime can really add up — the loss of earnings in D.C. alone adds up to almost $1 million dollars over 20 years,” said Chandra Childers, lead author of a new report on the wage gap from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
There is a direct correlation between this racial, gendered wage gap and evictions. If Black women had access to the $24,000 they lose annually to the wage gap, they would be better able to keep up with rent.
According to an analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF), 1 in 5 renters likely to face eviction are Black women. Almost 80 percent of Black mothers are key breadwinners for their families and spend a larger percentage of their income on critical household expenses like rent and utilities than white families.
Because so many Black mothers are depended on for their wages, they are also more likely to have their names listed as the leaseholder. Any interruptions in their ability to pay rent An unexpected financial shock — like a global pandemic — **can throw Black women and their families into a vicious cycle of eviction and bad credit that makes it harder to secure housing.
While the extension of the federal eviction moratorium is sure to be a relief for millions of tenants working to make ends meet as Covid-19 cases surge, many renters will remain vulnerable.
According to a recent Private Equity Stakeholder Project report, corporate landlords have violated the moratorium by filing to evict at least 75,000 residents instead of helping them access support through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
In an earlier joint report with Jobs With Justice, the Project revealed that many of these landlords pocketed federal Covid relief before turning around and throwing renters out of their homes.
Only $3 billion of the $47 billion in rental aid allocated by Congress was provided to about 630,000 households by June 30, 2021. That amounts to less than 4 percent of the total available funds.
The inequalities that make Black women particularly vulnerable to evictions will continue unless bold, progressive action is taken to ensure that they are paid their fair share. The two are inextricably linked.
As Rep. Cori Bush tearfully said after the moratorium extension was announced, “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I went through — ever.”