Nearly 12M Renters Will Owe $5,800+ In Back Rent And Utilities By Early January

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Written by Ann Brown
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Nearly 12M Renters Will Owe $5,800+ In Back Rent And Utilities By Early January Photo: FILE – In this May 20, 2020, file photo, signs that read “No Job No Rent” hang from the windows of an apartment building during the coronavirus pandemic in Northwest Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

With stimulus talks stalled, millions of Americans will end the year not only out of work and out of unemployment relief but also more than $5,000 behind on their rent.

Black families have been especially hard hit.

Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by early January, according to Moody’s Analytics. In November, 9 million renters reported being behind on rent payments, according to a Census Bureau survey.

“The numbers of those behind on rent and utilities were especially high for families with children, with 21 percent falling behind on rent, and among families of color,” The Washington Post reported. About 29 percent of Black renters were behind, the Census Bureau reported. 

“The tidal wave is coming. It’s going to be really horrible for people,” said Charlie Harak, a senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “The number of people who are now 90 days behind and the dollars they are behind are growing quite significantly.”

Many unemployed Americans were able to delay paying rent this fall under eviction moratoriums, the Washington Post reported. But those protections end when the federal eviction moratorium ends on Dec. 31. Landlords and utility companies are eager to get paid because they have their own bills and taxes to pay. Economists warn that low-income families won’t be able to suddenly pay back three-to-six months of rent at once.

Many people expressed their frustrations on Twitter.

One user posted, “We spend 750 billion a year on defense but when it comes to protecting its citizens who elected them to office, congress couldn’t give two shits about them”

Another spoke of his own personal financial struggles, tweeting, “30 days. No Moratorium extension will be terrifyingly frightening!”

Paying utility bills like gas, heat, electricity, and water has also been a major problem, and as the weather gets colder many people may find themselves without heat.

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In New Hampshire, for example, there has been a 66 percent jump in the number of families who are 90 days or more behind on utility payments compared with 2019. Pennsylvania has seen a 67 percent increase over the last year in the number of households behind in payments, according to a report by the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA).

Electric and gas bill debt is expected to be more than $24 billion by the end of 2020. That’s three to four times what it was in 2019, Marketplace reported.