Covid-19 has wrought havoc in nearly every aspect of life in the U.S. and across the world, and home rental is no different. Given the widespread unemployment, it was predictable that many people would struggle to afford their rent. Thankfully, Governor Whitmer among other political leaders have sought to mitigate the damages by enacting government rental aid programs. First the eviction ban allowed renters to stay in their homes, but it didn’t provide any assistance for landlords who relied on rent for their livelihoods. The governor has extended the eviction ban until July 15 and has announced a new Eviction Diversion Program to help struggling renters to afford their bills. She is dedicating $50 million of federal coronavirus relief funds to this program, and it is slated to start on July 16.
This kind of support for renters, which make up approximately one third of Americans, is essential but it may not be enough. The eviction ban did not do anything about rent payments, which have continued to pile up over the last several months. This issue also disproportionately affects people of color, as Black families are twice as likely to face eviction as white counterparts. The goal of this program is to help thousands of people to keep their homes and to avoid turning our current public health crisis into homelessness crisis. The problem is we still might see that happen. This step taken by Governor Whitmer is at least slightly reassuring, but I worry that it may not be enough.