With the $600 weekly unemployment bonus ending this weekend and tenants seeking long-term protections, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday pinned his hopes on another federal stimulus bill.
Newsom said he was optimistic about another stimulus bill that includes an extension of the enhanced unemployment insurance. Republicans are looking to base benefits on 70 percent of wage replacement, but a bill may not be passed for the next few weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday.
”I’m expecting good news within the week that leader Pelosi, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will be advancing,” Newsom said. “Because she’s there, I have deep confidence in her capacity to pull something off important, to pull something off in the direction of [unemployment.]”
The optimism comes as San Francisco’s unemployment rate sits at 12.5 percent as of June, compared to 2.2 percent in February. San Franciscans have filed 173,200 unemployment insurance claims since February but EDD has not yet shared how many are receiving benefits, including the expiring $600 augmented payments, according to the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
About 24,000 of those claims came from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program launched during the crisis to allow self-employed and gig workers to receive benefits.
The weekly $600 has gone a long way toward helping rent payments to continue despite the surge in unemployment. About 97 percent of renters in apartments have paid their rent during the coronavirus crisis, according to surveys by the San Francisco Apartment Association, San Francisco Association of Realtors and Small Property Owners of San Francisco.
But an SFAA survey from May found that 17 percent of small property owners had at least one tenant that couldn’t pay rent and that 17 percent of housing providers have had tenants unexpectedly break lease or give notice that they would move.
Though its been challenged by the real estate groups in court, San Francisco has made permanent a ban on evictions due to coronavirus-related nonpayment. Newsom, who had signed an executive order temporarily banning similar evictions extended to Sept. 30, acknowledged on Friday that a long-term fix was needed to prevent a wave of evictions.
“We are concerned, as all of us should be, about a lot of these temporary fixes are going by the wayside and our need to put together a further bridge — at least through the end of the year, perhaps longer — to work through this so that we can avoid the most significant impacts that this virus has had on peoples’ pocketbooks and their capacity to pay rent, and many cases to pay their mortgage,” Newsom said.
The governor said he was working with Assemblymember David Chiu, who represents San Francisco, and state Sen. Anna Caballero, who have competing tenant bills and a tight timeline to pass them.
Chiu is an author of Assembly Bill 1436, which extends the eviction ban to April 2021. Its current form is supported by the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, unlike Senate Bill 1410. Caballero’s bill would prevent tenants from being evicted due to nonpayment from coronavirus if they agree to enter a repayment plan with the landlord in a voluntary program.
“We can’t sit idly by, the Legislature can’t sit idly by and watch millions of tenants get evicted and become homeless without taking action,” Chiu said earlier this month. “How we get there is going to be the subject of a lot of debate.”