Debt jubilee, a practice going back 4,000 years, is an established way of resetting economies that are burdened by excessive personal and collective debt. As we emerge from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must consider this way of returning to individual and collective economic wholeness.
A particularly critical form of debt is for housing. We were in a national crisis before the pandemic began, with nearly half of all renters spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs and more than 25% paying more than 50% of their income. The Covid-19 crisis hit these households harder than most, as many of them depended on jobs that were lost when the economy partially closed. Some short-term assistance in the form of extra unemployment and one-time relief checks delayed the inevitable impact on these families. Many states have allocated CARES Act money to help people pay their back rent incurred during the state of emergency, but indications are that the NH one-time allocation of $2,500 per household will not be enough to prevent a tide of evictions.
Though homeowners are also under threat of losing their homes, the CARES Act provided more assistance to them, including mortgage forbearance for up to 12 months. Though no state has yet implemented a policy of rent forgiveness, many are considering extending eviction bans into 2021 or longer. Legislation has been introduced on Capital Hill to suspend rents and mortgages through the end of the pandemic and allow landlords to receive HUD funds to cover their losses. Senator Biden has endorsed the idea on the presidential campaign trail. A number of economists, including James K. Galbraith, have argued that this is necessary for a full recovery.
We call on our elected representatives to implement a Housing Jubilee and extended eviction and foreclosure bans for all those who need it in the Granite State. To do any less lacks compassion for our friends and neighbors and lacks vision for our collective future.
“We are caught in an inescapable network for mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.