coronavirus fallout
March 22, 2021

Rent in high-income neighborhoods in many major American cities has gone down during the pandemic, but lower-income neighborhoods have seen hikes, Catherine Rampell writes in The Washington Post.

In San Francisco, for example, rents are dropping across the board, though the fall has been most significant for what are considered high-end rentals. In other cities, like New York or Washington, D.C., lower-end rentals have held steady, while higher-end prices have dropped. In her analysis, Rampell zeroed in on Chicago, where rents are increasing in lower-income areas, despite a fall in their higher-income counterparts.

There are likely a few reasons behind the discrepancy, Rampell writes. People who could afford higher rents before the pandemic have, more generally, been able to work from home and subsequently migrated to the suburbs, leaving their city apartments vacant, which "placed downward pressure on rents." But not everyone who moved left their cities. Some folks instead chose to "move down the housing ladder to save money," which added to a pre-existing logjam for affordable housing. A "surge in demand for lower-price-point homes ended up bidding those rents higher," Rampell writes.

Rampell suggests the increases may also be an unintended consequence of the federal eviction moratorium, which may have led landlords to raise rents for some tenants in the hopes of offsetting the losses stemming from others falling behind on their payments. Lower-income tenants also just have less leverage than high-income tenants. "They don't have money to move elsewhere, and landlords know they have them over a barrel," said Sandy Rollins, executive director of the Texas Tenants' Union. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

December 16, 2020

By historical standards, poverty levels in the United States remain low, but the country has seen the biggest jump in poverty in a single year since the government began tracking such information 60 years ago, The Washington Post reports.

New data released Wednesday by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame shows the poverty rate increased to 11.7 percent in November, up 2.4 percentage points since June, marking the fifth straight month of incline. In that time span, around 7.8 million Americans have fallen below the poverty line, or an income of $26,200 for a family of four.

Not only is the rise the largest in several decades, it is also nearly double the second-biggest increase, which occurred between 1979 and 1980 during the oil crisis, the Post reports.

Notre Dame and University of Chicago economists say the situation, unsurprisingly, stems from the coronavirus pandemic and the tough labor market it has created, as well as the fact that government aid is dwindling. A solution to either would help — when Congress passed the CARES Act in the spring and sent stimulus checks to Americans, poverty actually decreased — and it looks like a new relief bill is the more realistic goal. "Given the state of the virus, I wouldn't bet on significant improvement in the labor market in the short run," James Sullivan, a professor at Notre Dame, told the Post. Tim O'Donnell

December 13, 2020

More than a quarter of the estimated 356,000 excess deaths in the United States in 2020 have been attributed to ailments other than COVID-19, a New York Times analysis of estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Diabetes deaths are believed to be around 15 percent above normal nationwide this year, and at least 20 percent in several states, including New Jersey, where the figure is estimated to be 37 percent.

Deaths from Alzheimer's and dementia, high blood pressure, and pneumonia and the flu are all estimated to have increased at double digit rates compared to a normal year, as well. However, many of these cases could have been undiagnosed coronavirus infections, particularly early in the pandemic when testing was scarce.

The Times notes the excess mortality, regardless of the cause, is likely at least partially related to the coronavirus pandemic, which has created disruptions in the health care system. Economic stress and social isolation stemming from lockdowns could also have played a role, especially for people with chronic illnesses. "You end up choosing between your prescription medications or buying groceries or keeping a roof over your head," Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the Times. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2020

With lawmakers still haggling over coronavirus relief legislation, about 12 million Americans are poised to have their unemployment benefits cut off entirely by the end of the year, The Washington Post reports. Around the same number of people will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities, Moody's Analytics warns. Many unemployed Americans have been able to delay rent payments for the last few months, but eviction moratoriums will end soon, the Post notes.

"The tidal wave is coming," Charlie Harak, a senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, told the Post. "It's going to be really horrible for people. The number of people who are now 90 days behind and the dollars they are behind are growing quite significantly."

Mark Wolfe, the executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association, said the pandemic fallout is "like a Charles Dickens novel," which are often noted for depicting trying social conditions. The current situation, Wolfe said, is "an evolving story of how people at the bottom are suffering." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

September 9, 2020

There's no question the coronavirus pandemic has forced many Americans into financial hardship, but a new NPR/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey provided a clearer picture of the extent of the struggles in the United States' four largest cities.

At least half of all households in those cities — 53 percent in New York City, 56 percent in Los Angeles, 50 percent in Chicago, and 63 percent in Houston — reported facing serious financial problems, including depleted savings, problems paying credit card bills, and affording medical bills.

Black and Latino households in all four cities were particularly vulnerable. In New York, 62 percent of Black households and 73 percent of Latino households reported struggles. In Los Angeles those numbers are 52 and 71 percent, respectively, while 69 percent of Black households and 63 percent of Latino households in Chicago have faced the same. And, most drastically, in Houston, 81 percent of Black households and 77 percent of Latino households said their financial issues were serious.

Interviews for the poll were conducted online and via telephone between July 1-Aug. 3 among 3,454 adults in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. The overall margin of error was 3.3 percentage points, while it was 5.4 percent for New York, 7.1 percent for Los Angeles, 5.4 percent for Chicago, and 6.3 percent for Houston. Read the full results here. Tim O'Donnell

August 1, 2020

While the Federal Reserve has earned praise for many of its actions aimed at stabilizing the economy in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic began, its "Main Street" lending program — which is designed to rescue companies that are struggling to stay afloat during the crisis — has sputtered, Politico reports.

The main reason for that, Politico notes, is because the companies that need the Fed's help the most, like hotels with big mortgages, aren't eligible because their debt levels are too high. The Fed, which can't provide grants, is legally prohibited from lending to insolvent companies, and the central bank has subsequently remained cautious about when and where to step in. "It's just too hard to do this through the constraints the Fed has on it by law," David Beckworth, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, told Politico.

At the moment, borrower demand reportedly isn't especially high, but if the pandemic doesn't slow down going forward, it won't be a "very rosy picture," said Brian Crawford, executive vice president of government affairs at the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Read more about the program at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

July 28, 2020

As many would expect, the coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the global tourism industry, the United Nations World Tourism Organization said Tuesday.

The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer revealed that lockdowns have led to a 98 percent fall in international tourist numbers in May compared to 2019. Dating back to January, the year-over-year drop was 56 percent.

That, in turn, led to a big drop in revenue. Since the beginning of the year, $320 billion in international tourism receipts have been lost, a figure more than three times the decline that occurred in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. That's not entirely surprising considering there wasn't a major public health that deterred people from traveling, but it still highlights the extreme nature of the current struggles in the tourism industry.

"The latest data makes clear the importance of restarting tourism as soon as it is safe to do so," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said. "The dramatic fall in international tourism places many millions of livelihoods at risk, including in developing countries." Read more about the latest tourism data here. Tim O'Donnell

July 27, 2020

As part of a broader $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill, Republican lawmakers are proposing to cut weekly emergency unemployment benefits established in the previous CARES Act from $600/week to $200/week, people familiar with the unreleased plan told The Washington Post.

Democrats want to extend the $600 figure, which is set to expire this week, until January while the unemployment rate remains high, and many economists think keeping things as they are or even raising the total a bit makes more sense than slashing. But the Senate GOP isn't on board.

The cut would be temporary, however, and is meant to fill the gap between now and until states implement a Republican-favored approach that involves paying workers 70 percent of the income they earned before losing their jobs due to the pandemic. In that scenario, the weekly unemployment boost wouldn't be tied to a specific number, but would vary for individuals. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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