Mar 31, 2020 - Health

Paying rent in a pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For many people who've lost jobs or income because of the coronavirus pandemic, tomorrow presents a stressful decision: Do you pay your rent or mortgage?

Why it matters: The new CARES Act that was signed by President Trump on Friday protects homeowners and renters who are suffering from the response to the coronavirus pandemic — but it's not “a one-size-fits-all policy rulebook,” a congressional aide tells Axios.

  • The bill prohibits foreclosures and evictions on all federally supported mortgage loans (including those owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) for a 60-day period that began on March 18.
  • Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants and charging late fees and penalties for those in federally backed housing for 120 days.

The big picture: For those laid off, furloughed, or whose incomes have plummeted because of the response to the coronavirus outbreak, we've put together a guide.

  • Check with your landlord, bank or mortgage company to see if they’ve adopted leniency policies. 
  • See if your city or state is among those that have suspended eviction proceedings — your payment obligations don’t go away, but you will have a measure of protection.

Between the lines: Personal finance experts recommend looking at your entire financial picture and cash flow situation before deciding whether to skip a rent or mortgage payment.

  • Prioritize your immediate necessities: food, medicine, utilities, health insurance.
  • Piled-up rent or mortgage bills aren’t going to go away, so consider tapping emergency savings to cover them.

Under the CARES Act, adults will receive payments of up to $1,200 in as little as three weeks, and most children will get $500.

  • The new law makes it easier to tap retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s for up to $100,000 in cash: Early withdrawal penalties for IRAs are temporarily waived, as are tax penalties for borrowing against a 401(k) or similar plan.
  • Using your retirement money as a piggy bank isn’t always the best option, since you’re selling when the market is at a low point and you'll miss out on possible future gains. Alternatives include a personal loan, a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. 

Go deeper: Advice from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.

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Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.