Ban on evictions proves useful after soaring unemployment report

Tenants who have lost jobs or hours due to the novel coronavirus in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Orange counties say the suspension of police-enforced evictions, now in its second week, has reduced at least one of the stresses in their lives.

The decision to halt evictions was among one of the first actions taken by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, three days after Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency. The Miami-Dade Police Department supported the decision by releasing a tweet stating that they would suspend all eviction activity until further notice.

A bill that would have halted evictions statewide was submitted early September of last year by Miami Beach state Rep. Michael Grieco (D-District 113) after a 75-year-old Miami Beach resident was very publicly evicted from her home along with many of her personal belongings.

Although the bill would have proved to be useful now, it died on March 14. According to Grieco, the bill received one hearing in the House and none in the Senate.

“By the time it got a hearing in the House it had been watered down immensely to very limited hurricane related circumstances with very short time periods,” he said.

Despite lack of a statewide prohibition, Miami-Dade tenants are grateful the MDPD is not enforcing evictions. Full-time student, mother of twins and part-time tutor Yasmin Niazi said she and her husband are now dealing with a very inconsistent work schedule.

“I told [my husband] I’m not comfortable with him going out of the house because there are babies in the house,” said Niazi.

The recent rush to hoard supplies has also added further pressure.

“I try to budget myself when I buy in bulk [at Costco] because I plan for it, but I ended up spending twice as much of what I usually spend in the month,” she said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor released figures showing 3.3 million people applied for unemployment for the week ending March 21, the highest weekly total ever recorded. The surge of joblessness has been exceptionally prevalent in the hospitality and service industry.

According to a report released by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, of the 8.3 million jobs associated with the hotel industry, nearly 4 million employees are projected to lose their jobs in the coming weeks.

In Florida this means nearly 400,000 jobs. Testimonials of Florida hoteliers show the struggle some hotels are having to stay in business.

Sebastian Hansen from Saint Petersburg said that his hotel had to lay off half of its staff to remain in business, and that they were down over a million dollars in revenue for the month.

Landlords are also noticing the job layoffs in the service sector. Kevin Veilleux manages 50 properties and said that of that total, only two property tenants have delayed rent payments.

“It’s the people in the restaurant business,” said Veilleux. “I don’t see restaurant businesses doing well until probably August.”

Since the bill to halt evictions statewide during an emergency state did not pass, Grieco said that it is up to the local government to decide how to phase in evictions.

“A lot of businesses are going to close and a lot of people have lost their job as a result and it’s not like they’re going to be able to get right back into the workforce,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a significant grace period.”

Laura Antunez is a Cuban-born writer who loves reading, watching movies and drinking coffee. She is an FIU senior journalism major who loves to write about science and astronomy.