Upon the Biden-Harris victory last November, the pandemic was finally looking up for Black and Brown communities in the U.S. Amid glimmering promises from the new administration with a platform centered on racial equity, climate action, gun safety, and criminal justice reform was a staunch commitment to curb the pandemic and restore justice to millions of Americans. Certainly, there have been many successes in the past year: in March, Biden announced that he would offer $250 million in federal grants to organizations that work to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccinations in underserved communities. His first slate of judicial nominations included four Black women and a candidate who would be the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history.
Even with all of these victories, right now all eyes are on the CDC’s new short-term eviction moratorium that expires in two months. In July, 3.6 million Americans reported that they will likely face homelessness in the coming months. As someone who dealt with housing insecurity as a child, I have been paying close attention to this particular issue. Even with the first Black and Asian female Vice President and a President whose victory was sealed due to Black women voters, Black women continue to be hit the hardest during this pandemic. The recent eviction moratorium fight was once again an example of how our government’s policies try to find band-aid solutions in lieu of working to combat the systemic racism at play in the crisis. In light of this, I have dedicated the seventh season of my podcast The Brown Girls Guide To Politics to explore the connections between the pandemic and recent economic hardships faced by Black, Brown and Indigenous women.
As COVID-19 cases rose exponentially last summer, the US was facing the possibility of its most severe housing crisis on record. Tenants were without stable income for months and as a result, property owners struggled to pay the taxes and mortgages to retain their properties. According to a report by the Aspen Institute, a shocking 30-40 million people were at risk of eviction in the months following August 2020. This looming crisis was foregrounded against a pre-existing affordable housing crisis all throughout the country—and not to mention the simultaneous importance of the home as a refuge for shelter-in-place and COVID quarantine.
In an emergency response, the CDC called for an immediate eviction moratorium to prevent the eviction of tenants who failed to complete their rental payments. Last month, after a realtors’ association brought the case to the Supreme Court to end the Trump-era moratorium, the Court ruled that it could remain in place in a tight 5-4 vote. The Biden administration did not extend the moratorium, leaving it up to Congress to decide the fate of a bill opposed by some members on both sides of the aisle.
The CDC, however, announced a new eviction moratorium that will last until October 3rd, after Congresswoman Cori Bush and others slept on the steps of the United States Capitol to bring attention to the issue, and with Bush telling her own story of dealing with housing insecurity and the impact it has on Black women and their families. This is only a temporary solution for the long-term financial hardships the pandemic has caused. As highly contagious variants continue to spread, housing security is perhaps the most important preventative measure to halt the spread of the virus. Our elected leaders now have two months to prevent soaring eviction rates by implementing more sustainable and robust protections for affordable housing security.
As it always has, any eviction and housing instability will harm Black and Brown Americans the most. As it relates to the pandemic, this means a loss of affordable housing, a lack of access to proper COVID care, a lack of vaccine access being posed as ‘hesitancy’, and a drastic decrease in Black life expectancy.
Per the framework of intersectionality, Black women shoulder a disproportionate burden in the loss of housing. As mothers, wives, and caretakers, Black women are more likely to be the sole recipient of income in a family and twice as likely to be responsible for all housework than white mothers. In a world in which many children are still homebound for school and childcare, the impending dissolution of housing security is a doomsday for hundreds of thousands of Black mothers for whom the pandemic has already devastated.
Housing instability is certainly at the root of the rising female work recession—also known as the “She-cession,”—which I’ve explored recently on The Brown Girls Guide to Politics with co-founder and Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Ai-jen Poo and Gizelle George-Jospeh of Goldman Sachs.
The new eviction moratorium does not resolve the eviction crisis, it merely delays it, and it is critical that the Biden-Harris Administration, lawmakers, and activists rally to support Black women and mothers who may still face eviction after October 3rd. A simultaneous effort is needed to curb the virus in Black communities and increase access to vaccination clinics. Black and Brown women are too often excluded from conversations about economic hardship in this country. I’m excited to continue to use the BGG to center the narratives and stories of women of color who continue to suffer through this pandemic, and I hope that other activists will do the same.
A’shanti F. Gholar is the host of the WMN original podcast, The Brown Girls Guide to Politics