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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Small businesses can lay off or furlough employees if they are forced to close for the duration of a lockdown. They can stop buying goods from vendors. They can even stop paying their owners. But they still owe rent.

The big picture: If no money is coming in, then most businesses won't write those rent checks. Some will simply fall behind; others will take advantage of formal rent moratoriums. Either way, the problem just gets kicked down the road, creating a nasty past-due rent liability.

What to watch: France has announced that it will suspend rent and utility bills for small businesses. So far, that doesn't seem to be something the White House is considering.

  • Few if any U.S. landlords will be willing or able to start eviction proceedings in the midst of the crisis. But once businesses start to reopen, nearly all of them will try to collect on back rent.
  • In the case of small businesses paying below-market rents on a long-term lease, the landlord could get quite aggressive.

The bottom line: At some point, the U.S. government will have to step in to adjudicate these disputes. It might even have to pay some of the back rent itself. Or, it could follow hedge fund manager Bill Ackman's advice and just give everybody in the country a 30-day rent holiday.

Go deeper: The investor's guide to coronavirus

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated 4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

First look: WaPo Trump book's secret title revealed

Cover: Penguin Press

The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker will be out July 20 with "I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year," Penguin Press announced.

Breaking: Axios has learned that The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender is moving "Frankly, We Did Win the Election" up to July 20, matching Leonnig-Rucker, from his earlier pub date of Aug. 10.

Shell and GM unveil partnership on Texas power and car-charging

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

General Motors and a Shell-owned power company will unveil a partnership on Wednesday aimed at providing renewable electricity to Texas customers and free overnight charging to state residents who own GM electric cars.

Why it matters: It’s a new way for two corporate giants to expand their operations in a way that lowers emissions at the customer and supplier level.

The Democrats' wake-up call

Eric Adams, a former cop who leads the New York mayoral race, speaks last night at the Schimanski nightclub in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Democrats, in private and public, are warning that rising crime — and the old and new progressive calls to defund the police — represent the single biggest threat to their electoral chances in 2022.

Why it matters: There has been a big spike in big-city crime, a dynamic increasingly captured in local coverage and nationally on CNN and Fox News.