How we gonna pay

We're almost to the one-year mark in the coronavirus pandemic ordeal, and it's amazing to me that the stock market hasn't tanked. To the contrary, after an initial stumble, it's actually risen over the year. It's as if the economy isn't taking a huge hit. Meanwhile, the federal government has been printing stimulus money, and they're about to hold the print button down for one of the longest print runs ever, yet there's no inflation. It's amazing.

I could never be an economist. I'm just not cut out for voodoo.

Another remarkable thing has been the situaion with landlords and tenants. There's a residential eviction ban in effect in many places, and many tenants haven't paid their rents. The landlords are required to keep supplying them a roof over their heads without being compensated. It's the humane thing to do, and it's way cheaper for society than dealing with all those people being thrown out on the streets. But if you're a landlord, you're hemorraging money. Mortgages, taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs,

I've never wanted to be a landlord, and I sure as heck wouldn't want to be one now.

Anyway, this week, here comes the Oregon state government, opening up a new $150 million grant program to help out the landlords. Property owners with uncollected housing rents can now start applying for some of that dough. But the amount of funding is far less than the amount of unpaid rent already out there, not to mention what's still to come.

Nicole Stingh, a spokesman for Oregon Housing and Community Services, which is administering the fund, said her agency will make $50 million available during the first round of funding. The agency expects to offer at least three rounds of funding before the end of June....

Along with allocating $150 million to the new fund, lawmakers provided an additional $50 million to existing rent relief programs. Tenants can find out how to apply for that relief through local community action agencies or by calling 211. That assistance will also be paid directly to landlords to cover past due rent.

Oregon Housing and Community Services is also receiving roughly $200 million more in rent assistance from the federal government, Stingh said last month. She said the agency was waiting on additional guidance before allocating those funds....

A September report commissioned by the National Council of State Housing Finance Agencies estimated that Oregon renters would miss between $249 million and $378 million in rent payments by January. That number is sure to rise as the pandemic continues, and the landlord compensation fund won’t come close to covering that amount of past due rent.

The eviction moratorium is now scheduled to end in June. Let's face it, many people will not be back on their feet by then. And a lot of the rent that hasn't been paid is never going to be paid. Without question, the damage is severe, and continuing. The only question is who's going to absorb it, the landlords or the taxpayers.

Meanwhile, left out of the housing conversation are small businesses. A lot of them are behind on their rent, too. The landlords who lease out commercial space are dealing with a lot of the same cash flow problems that the housing landlords are. But there's no bailout in the offing for the people owning commercial property, is there?

I've always been a Nervous Nellie about money; it's why I'll never be rich. But to me it seems as though our country is living on borrowed time. At some point there has got to be a reckoning. If there's any way to prepare for it, we should be doing so. But it's like the big earthquake that's coming. It's just too big to worry about.