House Passes Covid Relief Bill for Homeowners, Renters

(Courthouse News photo/Jack Rodgers)

WASHINGTON (CN) — House Democrats passed a bill Monday that would extend an eviction and foreclosure moratorium for renters and homeowners for a year, while also providing Americans additional financial housing assistance.

House Financial Services committee Chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, said during floor debate the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020 included several provisions from the $3 trillion Heroes Act, which has yet to be voted on in the Senate. Housing provisions within that legislation were even more essential today, she said, with a third of Americans unable to pay their June rent — with only days until July payments were due for millions in the nation.

The bill’s housing provisions include $100 billion for a rental assistance fund and $75 billion for a homeowner’s assistance fund to cover rent, mortgage and utility expenses. The bill also includes an additional $18 billion for other federal programs to ensure rent remains at an affordable level and creates a lending facility for mortgage services and rental property owners — along with a myriad of other provisions.

Waters, the fifth of 13 children, said during debate Monday her family suffered from and endured inadequate housing. The pipes in her home froze in the winter, she said, and in the summer, her family would sit “on the stoop through the wee hours of the morning, trying to stay cool.”

“But it was home, and I worried that we were going to be evicted, but my mother managed to put together the money and we never got evicted,” Waters said. “But my neighbors and my friends I saw evicted. And maybe my friends on the opposite side of the aisle have never seen this, they don’t understand this. … This is an emergency. The hospitals are filling up, children are hungry, people have lost their jobs, this is about whether or not people are going to have a place to lay their heads.”

Rep. Bill Huizenga led GOP opposition to the bill, arguing the debate’s structure presented no opportunity for amendments. A Republican representing Michigan, Huizenga said the bill was a political ploy and a “Democrat grab bag wish list of policy goals, predating and unrelated to Covid-19, under the guise of relief.” He also said the bill was a non-starter in the Senate. No Republicans would eventually vote for the bill.

“If we really want to start a real conversation about affordable housing in this country, let’s start with the facts,” Huizenga said. “The fact is that in far too many large, high-cost metropolitan areas, local decisions and regulations have made the cost of housing in those area too high for many hardworking families. We should not be rewarding these high-cost cities for decades of self-made mistakes with more taxpayer dollars.”

Rep. Al Green, a Texas Democrat, said Americans could not wait for housing assistance within this legislation, especially due to an increase in discriminatory rental practices. The National Fair Housing Alliance Surveyed its membership and found a dramatic increase in several types of housing complaints since the Covid-19 pandemic began, he said, which all demanded immediate attention.

“They found that 13% indicated that there is an increase in complaints related to sexual harassment, 16% related to domestic violence, 8% increase related to national origin of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” Green said. “But here’s one that will really capture your attention: with reference to persons who have disabilities, didn’t say they were of a specific hue, nothing about their sex, a 45% increase in complaints. They need help.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lauded Waters as a “relentless, persistent, dissatisfied force for good on behalf of America’s working families,” adding that long before the Covid-19 pandemic there was an affordable housing crisis, now exasperated by the virus. Before Covid, 11 million American renters — a fourth of America’s 44 million renters — paid over half their income on rent, just one financial emergency from homelessness.

“For many, Covid-19 is that one emergency,” she said. “Tens of millions of Americans have lost jobs with rental households disproportionately affected. We cannot accept a situation in which, millions of families are forced to make this devastating choice between paying for rent, paying for groceries, paying for prescriptions and other essentials.”

The act passed on a 232-179 vote.

Also Monday, the House passed the Protecting Your Credit Score Act of 2019 which creates an online portal for consumers to access free credit reports from agencies, dispute errors and lift securities freezes on their credit. The legislation would also establish a public registry of those credit reporting agencies. The House debated the bill this past Friday.

The bill, which passed by a 234-179 vote, also would give the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau supervisory authority over credit reporting agencies and require the Government Accountability Office to report on the feasibility of replacing Social Security numbers with another type of federal identification.

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