TEXAS -- As COVID-19 continues to ricochet through the economy, federal lawmakers have passed a record-breaking stimulus plan to help keep the national economy afloat.
- Texas renters granted 60-day grace period
- Many Texans say that won't be enough given the duration of stay-at-home orders
- Petition created calling for suspension of rent and mortgage payments, utility bills
But is it enough?
For many Texans, rent is their biggest expense.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting wave of unemployment, the Texas Supreme Court has halted all eviction proceedings until at least mid-April. Austin City Council also passed an ordinance last week enacting a 60-day grace period for renters.
What that means for the Texans hard hit by the pandemic is that even if they can’t pay their rent, they can’t be forced out of their homes in the next few weeks. However, they will still have to pay all the rent they owe at the end of that time period.
But one Texas man says that state legislators need to do more to make sure many Texans don’t end up homeless down the line.
Independent filmmaker Peter Nicholas is struggling more and more as COVID-19 spreads.
“I was already kind of, you know, hurting after them shutting down South by Southwest," said Nicholas.
His wife, Megan Unrath, lost her job as a server when Austin shut down all its dining areas in bars and restaurants.
“They just didn’t have any hours for us," said Unrath. "Eric, who is our general manager, called me again later on and told me the next day that I need to file for unemployment.”
Now, like for so many others, money is running low, but the bills keep coming.
“With all the money we have we could probably make it like another month, but that’s not including, you know, food," said Nicholas. "I don’t want to be in a position where we pay our rent and then we have to decide okay, are we not going to eat? Are we not going to pay the light bill?”
Nicholas knows they aren't alone. He created a petition on Change.org asking state legislators to suspend rent, mortgage, and utility payments for two months, and it already has hundreds of thousands of signatures.
“It’s addressed to Governor Abbott, but it’s also addressed to the Texas Legislature, it’s addressed to our representatives in Congress, because I want to remind them that even though a lot of the focus is on trying to make sure businesses get bailed out, they work for us, they work for the people of Texas," said Nicholas.
Eviction proceedings in Texas are on hold until at least April 19, but Nicholas says that’s not enough.
“If you're making minimum wage, and then, you know, you haven't paid rent in, you know, two months or a month that might be, you know, $3,000, $4,000 that you're supposed to just come up with when you make you know $8.50 an hour or something like that. It's just not feasible for a lot of people," he said.
Nicholas and Unrath know they're lucky to have family who can help them. But they also know that not everyone has that.
“We have our families here in town, you know, like, good support system. We have a really good support system, like we're gonna be okay. But there's so many other people out there that just that aren’t. Some people don't live on a month-to-month basis, they live on a week-to-week basis," said Nicholas.
The couple agrees that safety is paramount, but they and many others are facing ruin with bills looming.
“My grandmother's in her 80s. My parents are in their 60s. One has a pre-existing condition, so I guess I just hope that, you know, that they make it through and that they don't get sick and hope that a lot of other families don't get sick," Nicholas said.
“I think that it would be kind of sad if we looked at looked at ourselves after all this was done and said that we didn't do everything that we could to help each other when, you know, things got their worst," Nicholas continued.