As if a pandemic was not enough, now many Iowans face the possibility of being evicted from their homes, thanks to a decision from Gov. Kim Reynolds. Originally the Governor used federal CARES Act funds for a program that would prevent renters from evictions and homeowners from foreclosure. Yes, this program would help renters, but would also keep landlords and banks from losing revenue.
The most recent action from Gov. Reynolds is lifting the ban on the moratorium that temporarily froze evictions and foreclosures due to COVID-19. The moratorium was put in place on March 27 and the ban was lifted effective May 28.
For many Iowans, ending the ban is devastating. They are already at an economic and financial disadvantage by working jobs that do not pay a living wage and lacking the kind of savings necessary for an emergency like the pandemic.
Many in Iowa do not have any kind of savings to live on for 15 days without an income, let alone to sustain them for two to three months. Although most of us qualified for the federal stimulus checks of $1,200 dollars per person, that certainly was not enough to cover rent, food, and other bills.
The pandemic continues to have a huge negative impact on many people, but for some it has been come at the worst possible time.
Ana is one of those individuals who will undoubtedly suffer by the Governor ending this program. She recently came out of an abusive relationship and was kind enough to share her story with me.
“Before the pandemic started, I was getting myself out of a rut that I have been in for the past year,” she said.
Ana had just signed a lease for her first apartment and started a new job. About a week after moving into her place, she learned she was expecting her first child.
Then the pandemic hit Iowa, and Ana was let go from her new job before she could even collect a full paycheck. Since she only worked for a short time, she did not qualify for unemployment.
“The news of a stimulus check was a relief, but I knew I would need to use a lot of it on other bills that I desperately needed to pay and I would not have enough to pay rent for that month,” she explained.
Since losing her job, she has been constantly applying at different places hoping to get hired so she wouldn’t fall behind on bills, but she knew being pregnant put her in the high-risk category for the virus and therefore unable to work with the public face to face.
“It’s been very difficult and in the past two plus months, I have not had any luck in even getting an interview,” she said.
All these obstacles caused Ana to fall one month behind with her rent. Last month she applied for rental assistance through the state of Iowa. It took a little over two weeks for her to get in touch with someone, but was able to go through the process to see if she qualified for help.
Unfortunately, she was denied assistance because she did not use her stimulus check to pay her last month of rent, even though it was her understanding that she could use that check to cover bills and food for the month.
Ana was also told by the state worker that another contributing factor for not getting approved was that fact that she was not employed, and that in order to get assistance the following month, she would have to provide at least two paycheck stubs from a job.
Ana was confused.
“That didn’t make much sense to me because if I had a job, I would have no need for assistance,” she said.
She finally got an interview with a company offering a position that would allow her to work from home. Even if she gets hired, it will be a few weeks before she gets a paycheck to pay the rent. Now she is going to be three months behind with her rent, and she is worried that with the Governor lifting the ban on evictions, she will lose her apartment and have nowhere to go.
This is one of many heartbreaking stories of average Iowans that are facing not only the health and financial consequences of the pandemic, but also the lack of an empathic and compassionate government.
Elected officials, regardless of party, should serve all Iowans — that is their charge. Sadly, we have learned through this crisis that in Iowa, one must be a corporation or a large donor to receive any help. We have learned that certain leaders come with a price tag.
Watching Gov. Reynolds during the pandemic has been painful. She ran a campaign that spoke to her humble beginnings working at Hy-Vee as a way to appeal to the everyday Iowans, those who live paycheck to paycheck.
Gov. Reynolds also sides with a President that cares only about winning the next election. COVID-19 has been tragic and devastating for many Iowans and Americans in general, but having bad leaders have worsened the situation for those who have no money to make big campaign donations, for those who have to work hard to feed their families.
We desperately need leaders that genuinely care for all Iowans, leaders that represent us all and are willing to do the right thing regardless of the political consequences.
by Claudia Thrane
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