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

Small businesses face post-lockdown cash crunch

A seamstress works at a sewing machine in a tailoring shop in Palm Springs, Calif. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

U.S. macroeconomic data is broadly improving but many small businesses are facing a perilous recovery as they attempt to stay afloat after coronavirus-driven lockdowns throughout the country. That's true even for the many that received government assistance.

By the numbers: A recent poll of 7,317 small business owners by Alignable finds that 43% of firms that received money through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) say they could be out of cash in a month or less.

12 mins ago - World

The 53 countries supporting China's crackdown on Hong Kong

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Rolex/Pool/Getty Images

China's foreign ministry and state media have declared victory after 53 countries joined a statement at the UN Human Rights Council supporting Beijing's new national security law for Hong Kong — compared to 27 who criticized the law.

The big picture: The list of 53 countries was not initially published along with the statement, but has been obtained by Axios. It is made up primarily of autocratic states, including North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Zimbabwe.

CO2 emissions may have peaked, but that's not enough

Reproduced from DNV GL; Chart: Axios Visuals

More analysts are making the case that COVID-19 could be an inflection point for oil use and carbon emissions, but it's hardly one that puts the world on a sustainable ecological path.

Driving the news: The risk advisory firm DNV GL, citing the pandemic's long-term effects on energy consumption, projects in a new analysis that global CO2 emissions "most likely" peaked in 2019.