So far, it’s been something of a zombie apocalypse movie without all the blood and gore. People are confronting issues like slow internet and having to understand their children’s homework. But now the calendar says that rent and other bills are due, which will bring the stress of unemployment, layoffs, and furloughs into stark relief.
New York hair stylist Vanessa Karim has not worked since March 21, when the state closed all salons to slow the spread of the coronavirus. She only has enough cash on hand to cover half of her $1,400 April rent.
“It all feels like a bad dream. Every day I’m like, ‘Is this really happening?’ I’m trying not to stress out.”
With unemployment claims above three million last week, and unemployment this week expected near 10%, many people are feeling the same pain.
A full third of the nation rents, with the proportion in New York and other urban centers much higher. Some states have instituted a moratorium on residential evictions. Housing advocates, however, have called for more dramatic action, including putting rent payments on hold altogether until the economy can restart.
But what happens to landlords, who have their own financial issues and mortgages to pay?
Some have turned to barter.
Ryan Henry Ward, a Seattle artist whose murals appear all over the city, asked his landlord for an accommodation. He got back a proposition: create some murals for his properties, and Ward would receive monthly payments that he could use to pay his rent.
Overwhelmed, Ward said:
“When he let me know, I cried. I just bawled. I didn’t know I was holding it in.”
Karim, the hair stylist, said she is comforted by the knowledge that so many others face the same challenges she does.
“I know it’s not just me. That kind of keeps me going.”