Giving Compass' Take:

• Here are some ways that policymakers can support unemployed renters that need assistance due to layoffs caused by COVID-19. 

• How can donors help provide relief and rental assistance?

• Read about small businesses that will rely on government recovery funding during COVID-19.

In just over a month, 22 million people have filed unemployment claims. In this short time, unemployment has skyrocketed, and renters are disproportionately affected.

Our analysis shows that renters, particularly low-income renters in the labor force, tend to be heavily concentrated in the five vulnerable industries where the layoffs were the largest: (1) accommodation and food service; (2) construction; (3) arts, entertainment, and recreation; (4) other services such as hairdressers, dry cleaners, and those that do repairs; and (5) retail trade.

There has been much debate about how renters will pay their rents and the need for rental assistance, specifically how much is needed and how it should be delivered.

May 1 is right around the corner, and renters still need assistance, especially those struggling to access unemployment benefits. What can policymakers do to help?

  • Extend the weekly $600 unemployment boost beyond July. If this doesn’t happen, renters will fall off an income cliff in July, which is also when the federal moratorium on evictions ends for those living in federally financed units.
  • Continue to expand access to unemployment benefits. Workers in the informal economy and those who are undocumented need assistance now and likely in the future if their employment continues to be affected.
  • Consider funding rental assistance. Rental assistance offers a subsidy that can be calibrated based on housing market costs and income, so it’s a more precise instrument to offer assistance and can be timed based on need. It might cost less over time compared with offering a one-size-fits-all amount each week.

Read the full article about unemployment and renters' insurance by Mary K. Cunningham, Laurie Goodman and Jung Hyun Choi at Urban Institute.