President Joe Biden has already accomplished a lot to help Michiganders in dire financial situations and to buy time to address looming economic disasters.
WASHINGTON, DC—President Joe Biden and his administration hit the ground running, signing nearly 30 executive orders in his first two days in office.
The flurry of new legislation will undo a lot of former President Donald Trump’s controversial work. For example, Biden signed orders that stopped construction on Trump’s promised border wall, reversed the travel ban on majority Muslim nations, and nullified a Trump order to exclude noncitizens from the census.
Some of the executive orders Biden signed will have a quick impact in communities throughout the country. Two of them, aimed at providing COVID-19 relief to renters and students, will have an immediate impact on the vast majority of Michiganders as the state struggles with a rocky rollout of its vaccination campaign fueled by mismanagement from the previous president.
Delaying the Eviction Tsunami
Michigan has been bracing for what state Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Welch called a “tsunami” of landlord-tenant disputes headed for the courts when the moratorium on evictions expires.
“There’s not enough pro bono hours to go around, particularly when you think of the landlord-tenant tsunami crisis that is upon the courts,” Welch told The ‘Gander. “Landlords probably tend to have council, tenants often don’t. What do we do for that tenant who walks in to the courthouse and is being evicted? The judge has to balance that. It’s a very awkward space for the judge as well, because they can’t represent the unrepresented party, that’s not their job, but it is their job to make sure justice is dispensed fairly.”
And that tsunami will come, but extending those moratoriums keeps Michiganders in their homes longer and gives more time to prepare for the next crisis on the horizon.
Biden is extending the federal eviction moratorium, providing temporary relief to vulnerable households across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. Last month Congress passed another extension, this time until Jan. 31. This latest action by Biden means the federal ban on evictions will continue through March 2021.
An eviction moratorium protects renters from being forcefully removed from their homes after not paying rent. In the months since the pandemic began, hundreds of thousands of renters across the nation have struggled to make their rent payments due to job losses and a damaged economy.
And that’s needed in Michigan, state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) told The ‘Gander.
“In my district, which includes a large portion of Detroit and also a lot downriver communities, we see rent has been increasing and housing is just going to continue to become unaffordable,” Chang explained.
Public health and homelessness experts have noted that alternate housing like shelters have led to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths.People experiencing homelessness and living in shelters often don’t have access to basic strategies that slow the spread of the coronavirus like frequent hand washing and access to space that is socially distanced.
Approximately 14 million Americans are currently behind on their rent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.Even with the moratoriums in place, thousands of Michiganders are losing their homes, showing the sheer magnitude of what will happen when the moratoriums end.
Extending the moratorium gives renters more time to stay in their homes while the United States continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.Biden also plans to ask Congress to extend the moratorium into the fall of 2021.
Delaying the Student Loan Crisis
Biden also directed the Department of Education to extend a pause on student loan payments through Sept. 30.
The current pause, which was implemented last March, was scheduled to resume at the end of January.The halt on payments is designed to take some of the financial pressure off borrowers who, at first, were still required to make their payments even as job losses mounted and the economy took a dive in the early days of the pandemic.
That’s giving breathing room for nursing student Molly Metheny from St. Clair.
“I worked full time and only took out government loans [thinking they would not be as bad as private] and I worked 32-40 hours a week while in school because my loans only covered classes:no books or living expenses and for two years I had to pay 4,000 a year for classes out of pocket,” she said.“I had $28,000 in loans.I picked the payment plan that was based on what I earned for repayment.I paid for four years and owed just under 34,000; 6,000 more than I owed before deferring by the end of 2016.”
On average, student loan borrowers have payments between $200 to $299 due every month. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt in the United States is upwards of $1.6 trillion spread across more than 40 million Americans.
Michigan students tend to graduate with around $35,000 in debt, and like Metheny, that debt blooms over time thanks to interest rates.
Those payments became nearly impossible for borrowers to meet as the country experienced an unprecedented wave of lost jobs and pay cuts. And consumers having more money in their pockets now—instead of paying banks—means they are spending on goods and services, which does far more to bolster their local economy.
Which shows the economic potential of Biden’s proposed student loan forgiveness. As for the human potential, it could rekindle hope for Metheny.
“I just know I’ve given up hope on the government investing in its people,” Metheny said. “They don’t see us as the future or important. We have to come up with a way on our own.”