Our analysis finds that the expiration of unemployment benefits on December 26th will place tens of thousands of families at risk of eviction.
Amidst record rates of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations triggering a regionwide stay-at-home order, the lifeline benefits sustaining about 141,700 unemployed Bay Area workers hang in the balance while Congress debates another stimulus package.
On December 26, 2020, two of the CARES Act programs – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – are scheduled to expire. The PUA program expanded unemployment benefits to cover gig workers and self-employed workers, and the PEUC program extended the regular 26-week unemployment insurance benefits by an additional 13 weeks. Although California will offer extended unemployment benefits beyond December 26th, many workers currently receiving PEUC will not qualify for them because they had lower prior earnings or seasonal work histories (including many agricultural workers).
With no replacement income and a bleak job market, these workers will face grave risks to their health and livelihoods. We estimate that 60,500 of these workers are renters, and if they do not find work immediately, they will be at imminent risk of eviction when the statewide eviction moratorium expires on January 31.* This includes about 14,900 renters in Alameda County, 11,300 in Santa Clara, 10,500 in San Francisco, 9,800 in Contra Costa, 4,100 in San Mateo, 3,900 in Solano, 3,400 in Sonoma, 2,100 in Marin, and 400 in Napa. This only represents a subset of Bay Area renters at risk of eviction: renters who lost jobs and income during the recession and received no unemployment benefits are also at risk of eviction (as we've estimated in our eviction risk analyses).
The same groups of workers hardest hit by the pandemic recession – Latinx workers, Black workers, young workers, and low-wage service sector workers – are disproportionately at risk of losing their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, according to the California Policy Lab’s analysis of worker demographics.
Extending these critical worker protection is crucial for equitable recovery in the Bay Area. With Covid cases spiking throughout the region, mass eviction would be a public health catastrophe. A recent study found elevated Covid infection rates and deaths in the states that have allowed evictions to continue through the pandemic. Beyond these Covid impacts, eviction drives people into poverty, displaces people from their communities, scars credit records, disrupts children’s education, leads to homelessness, and negatively affects mental and physical health. Starving workers of essential income would also have a chilling effect on the recovery.
*To calculate the number of renters at risk of eviction as a result of the December 26th benefits cliff, we used estimates of the number of workers exhausting benefits from PUA or regular UI from California Policy Lab's December 14th report. These numbers are then adjusted to account for the different rates of rentership for PUA and regular UI recipients. Those rentership rates were derived from the 2018 5-year American Community Survey (ACS) microdata from IPUMS USA, based on a universe of workers who are more likely to have experienced unemployment during the pandemic. Specifically, we restricted to the civilian noninstitutionalized population age 18 or older with earnings of greater than zero but less than the 66th percentile statewide ($52,899), employed in the top five industries with high UI claims in each county based on an assessment data from the California Policy Lab (May 21st and July 2nd reports), and estimated to have lawful immigration based on data from the USC Equity Research Institute. Among this universe, Rentership rates for self-employed workers were applied PUA exhaustees while rates for wage and salary workers were applied to regular UI exhaustees, based on the California Policy Lab’s finding that 89 percent of initial PUA claims were from workers who were previously self-employed, while rentership rates for wage and salary workers were applied to regular UI exhaustees.