Beyoncé's philanthropic foundation BeyGOOD has done it again: stepping in where the government has failed. This time, Bey is donating $500,000 to families facing eviction due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the foundation’s website, the fund will be made up of $5,000 grants, which will be distributed to 100 recipients in late January. Online applications for the grants will open from January 7, 2021, with a second round of applications to become available in February.
The donations are a direct response to the imminent housing crisis, which could see thousands of families displaced or even homeless after coronavirus relief measures expire at the end of the year. "When we were faced with the pandemic caused by Covid-19, BeyGOOD created a plan to make a difference," the foundation says.
While it's very generous of Beyoncé, we can't help but be disappointed in a government that leaves it up to a pop star to protect the basic needs of its population.
Here's a breakdown of the housing crisis and why Beyoncé's contribution is so important.
A housing pandemic
The United States may be facing the most severe housing crisis in its history. The public health crisis and economic depression caused by Covid-19 is putting huge pressure on renters and the housing market.
Covid-19-related job loss and economic hardship severely inhibited renters’ ability to pay rent during the pandemic. However, to make things even worse, the pandemic struck during what was already regarded as an affordable housing crisis. Prior to the pandemic, a GAP report in late 2019 showed a shortage of seven million affordable homes for low-income households.
In the first month of the pandemic, the federal government instituted a limited moratorium on evictions in federally-assisted housing and for properties with federally backed mortgages. However, temporary protections against evictions during the pandemic have largely expired or will expire by January 2021 across the US.
The coronavirus pandemic made apparent a systemically defunct housing system, wherein the vast majority of states lack protective eviction moratoriums, and as soon as hard times hit the vast majority of people could be facing homelessness.
Massive evictions are coming
No longer shielded from eviction by state and federal measures, an estimated 30 to 40 million people in the US could be at risk of eviction in the next several months.
According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, if conditions do not change up to 43% of renter households could be at risk of losing their homes by the end of the year. And in New York City, homelessness has already reached levels not seen since the Great Depression.
While federal housing acts barred tenants from being evicted, it did not cancel or curtail rent payments. Tenants who have not paid rent this year still owe the money, which explains why the risk of eviction will shoot up across the US as soon as the moratorium expires.
Housing inequality is worsening
Existing social disparities are only expected to worsen due to the impacts of the neglectful mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. Housing insecurity predictions show that minorities and people of color will be hardest hit by the eviction crisis.
Communities of color are disproportionately rent-burdened and at risk of eviction. Studies show that Black and Latinx people particularly, constitute approximately 80% of people facing eviction. Another study determined that Black households are more than twice as likely as white households to be evicted.
Furthermore, people with disabilities (who have historically higher rates of unemployment), LGBTQ people (who are more likely to experience homelessness), and undocumented immigrants (who are not protected by unemployment insurance or receive stimulus checks), could all be at heightened risk of economic hardship during the pandemic and thus eviction.
This will only exacerbate the pandemic
Disturbingly, the Covid-19 housing crisis could worsen the pandemic itself.
In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) enacted a national halt on residential evictions for nonpayment of rent. This action came with the following CDC acknowledgment: “Housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood that people may move into close quarters in homeless shelters or other settings. These crowded places put people at higher risk of getting COVID-19.”
Hence, the lasting effect of eviction is not only a widening economic inequality but a worsening of the very pandemic that exacerbated these circumstances. Either way, Beyoncé shouldn't have to be the one doing the government's job.