Georgia’s Children Suffer from Our Failure to Enact a National Eviction Ban

Girl crying in doorway. Photo by Pixabay.

Children in Georgia face hunger and homelessness while the U.S. Senate continues its predictable paralysis.

The Georgia runoff elections may well determine whether relief comes to the millions of children going hungry and at risk of eviction. By the end of January, over one third of Georgia renters with children could be evicted from their homes [1] — living in cars, on couches, on the street, or in shelters, many of them hungry. Evicted children would likely have no Internet for school, and be at much higher risk of freezing, molestation, abuse, family breakdown, or being taken by the state. Their family members would be more than twice as likely to get COVID-19 and 5 times as likely to die of it as they would if in their own homes [2]. These kinds of childhood trauma have lifelong consequences for health and earning potentials.

Children are actually the most vulnerable to eviction.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, households with children in Georgia are more than twice as likely to be threatened with eviction as those with no children [1]. In Georgia, 28% of renter households with children owe back rent, and 35% say they do not think they can pay next month’s rent  —  350 thousand children live in Georgia households that are not able to make rent [3]. 

Hunger is also closing in on our children.

A larger share of U.S. households with children experienced hunger this month than at any time during the pandemic, with 2.27 million more in December than in October [1]. Georgia families with children are 2.3 times as likely to have gone without enough food than households with no children [3]. Lauren Brauer organized studies with the Brookings Institute to track how many people were going hungry because of COVID. Today, over five times as many mothers nationwide were reporting that their children had to go hungry in the last week because they could not afford food (17.5% in one week, as compared to 3% for all of 2018 [4]). Brauer said children in the U.S. are going hungry “to an extent unprecedented in modern times” [5]. The situation in Georgia is worse than in 42 of the other states, with over half a million households with children reporting going hungry [3]. Nearly one-in-four of Georgia’s children live in households that did not have enough to eat in the last 7 days [3]. 

The situation is even worse for children of color.

The racial disparities in financial security that we see at a national level show up starkly in Georgia. Black renters are far more likely to be threatened with eviction in the near future: they are 4.4 times more likely to owe back rent than white renters, and 2.3 times more likely than white renters to have slight or no confidence they can pay next month’s rent. Black people in Georgia are also 2.3 times more likely to go hungry than whites [3]. When children face the disruptions of eviction or hunger, their education suffers and the cycle of inequity is amplified. If we want real justice, if we want a future of greater inclusion and genuine opportunity, we must act now to protect the most vulnerable children in our communities.

The pandemic makes the threats from eviction much worse for everyone.

This is true even for those who are not likely to be evicted themselves, because people cannot shelter-in-place if they have no shelter. People crowding into homeless shelters and makeshift encampments, or moving in with family or friends, become a perfect recipe for making the pandemic much worse. A team of public health experts from universities across the country have documented the deadly toll of eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last summer, 27 states let eviction moratoriums expire. The incidence of confirmed COVID-19 cases doubled over 16 weeks. COVID-19 mortality shot up 540%. This translated into 433,700 excess cases and 10,700 excess deaths [2]. Even with the CDC moratorium in place, The Eviction Lab at Princeton University documented about 80,000 evictions, just in the 27 cities they monitored this fall [6]. Over 3.5 million Georgians are now at high risk for eviction (they owe back rent, are unable to pay next month’s rent, or both) [3].  So in addition to direct risks from displacement or homelessness, ALL children are at much greater risk of losing caretakers and breadwinners they depend upon to COVID if evictions increase

A National Eviction Ban is Needed

Georgia has never had a state ban on evictions [2], so Georgia’s children are at the mercy of decisions in the U.S. Congress — their safety may depend on a national eviction ban. We need to simplify the process for protecting families behind on rent and homeowners at risk of foreclosure, so that families can stay in their homes. The bill that can do this already exists: HR6515 – The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act makes millions of families facing eviction and foreclosure safe in their homes the instant it becomes law. This bill would effectively and immediately protect renters, while fully compensating landlords and lenders.

Right now, it is up to Georgia voters to choose who will represent the interests of ALL of Georgia’s children. If you want The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act and other legislation to move through both houses of Congress, and a U.S. Senate that will work to protect the most vulnerable, be sure you cast your vote in the runoff election on or before January 5th. Polling places open January 5th are listed at https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do — do all you can to encourage Georgia voters to make a plan to vote, and encourage their neighbors to vote in this critical runoff election.

Notes

[1] Based on May 5 – Dec 7, 2020 data from U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/household-pulse-survey/data.html
[2] Leifheit, Kathryn M. and Linton, Sabriya L. and Raifman, Julia and Schwartz, Gabriel and Benfer, Emily and Zimmerman, Frederick J and Pollack, Craig, Expiring Eviction Moratoriums and COVID-19 Incidence and Mortality (November 30, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3739576 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3739576
[3] Numbers for Georgia are from Week 20 of the Household Pulse Survey, specifically Tables 1b and 2b for housing and table 2b for food scarcity. You can access the excel files here – https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2020/demo/hhp/hhp20.html
[4] See https://www.hamiltonproject.org/blog/about_14_million_children_in_the_us_are_not_getting_enough_to_eat
[5] See https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/05/06/the-covid-19-crisis-has-already-left-too-many-children-hungry-in-america/ and as reported in https://news.yahoo.com/nearly-1-5-us-children-left-hungry-since-211425517.html
[6] As reported in https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/05/why-home-evictions-are-still-happening-despite-cdc-ban.html

The Child Eviction Fact Force (https://novasutras.org/the-child-eviction-fact-force/) includes Paul Schaafsma, Jennifer Beagle, Dr. Nancy Glock-Grueneich, Ray Glock-Grueneich, Carol Long, Dr. Michelle Merrill, Leoma Scott, Dr. Kendon Smith and other volunteers (Novasutras Uplifters).

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