The coronavirus pandemic has created a whirlwind of events that have put the entire economy in limbo.
Restaurants are limiting their capacity or switching to take-out mode. Movie theaters are closed. Sports stadiums have shuttered. In most big cities, nightlife has come to a complete halt.
While these steps are necessary to protect the public's health, they've put countless people temporarily out of work. Many of these hourly workers without much of a savings.
A study from last year found that 40% of Americans don't have enough cash on-hand to handle a $400 emergency. That means a lot of people won't be able to pay their rents.
There are rumors swirling about that the federal government may send Americans checks to provide temporary relief but nothing is guaranteed at this point. One positive is many states have either expanded unemployment benefits or are looking to do so.
On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that gives local governments the authority to halt evictions for renters or homeowners. But he stopped short of creating a statewide moratorium.
"People shouldn't lose or be forced out of their home because of the spread of COVID-19," Newsom said in a statement. "Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices – but a place to live shouldn't be one of them. I strongly encourage cities and counties take up this authority to protect Californians."
While our lawmakers scramble to find a way to help people in the crisis, one landlord is taking care of his tenants himself. He hopes to start a trend that other landlords will follow.
Nathan Nichols, a landlord in Maine, announced on Facebook that he would not be collecting rent from his tenants in April due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. He says they are service and hourly workers who may not be able to make much money in the coming months.
"COVID19 is going to cause serious financial hardship for service and hourly workers around the country," Nichols wrote on Facebook.
"I own a two unit in South Portland and all of my tenants are in this category. Because I have the good fortune and of being able to afford it and the privilege of being in the owner class, I just let them know I would not be collecting rent in April," he continued.
Nichols made his decision public to inspire other landlords to "consider giving your tenants some rent relief as well."
"I am quite surprised and I am happy that it got shared a lot because I do seriously hope that people who have some privilege will see this and take a hard look and see what they can do," Nichols told WMTW.
"If more people do this, which is the only reason I posted this in the first place, to hopefully get people to take a hard look at what they can do to keep things working," he said.
He then made a follow-up post where he was excited to announce that another landlord had followed suit.
via Nathan Nichols / Facebook
Obviously, not all landlords are in the financial position to grant their tenants a rent-free month. Nichols should be commended because he could and he did. More importantly, his viral post also highlighted the fact that housing could be a serious problem in the coming weeks.
A crisis like the one we're facing gives us all the opportunity to ask ourselves how we can help those around us. While some of us, like Nichols, can help others financially, we all have abundant humanity to lend, and that can significantly improve lives, too.
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