Chris Arnold

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Landlords across much of the country can now evict tenants who have fallen behind on their rent. That's because a federal ban on evictions expired over the weekend.

"It's devastating," said Safiya Kitwana, a single mom with two teenagers living in DeKalb County, Ga., who lost her job during the pandemic. Like 7 million other Americans, Kitwana has fallen behind on rent.

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Back around the start of the year, Michael Thurmond had a problem. He's the top elected official in DeKalb County, Ga. Congress had approved about $50 billion to help people catch up and pay rent to avoid eviction.

But Thurmond worried that his county wouldn't get enough money to help everybody.

"What do I say to the family who is the first in line after all the money has run out?" he asks.

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For months, the warning was clear from economists, housing advocates and public health experts: Without more help from Congress, millions of Americans could be evicted, in the dead of winter, in the middle of a raging pandemic.

"I can't construct a darker scenario," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told NPR in November. "It's absolutely critical that lawmakers step up."

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Updated at 8:48 a.m. ET

The day after Christmas, millions of Americans will lose their jobless benefits, according to a new study. And that could spell financial ruin for many people, like 44-year-old Todd Anderson in the small town of Mackinaw City, Mich.

Anderson's a single dad with four kids — two of them 5-year-old twins. He lost his income after the pandemic hit in the spring. He did landscape design at resorts that host big weddings, and he says all that's been shut down.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The day after Christmas, 12 million Americans will lose their jobless benefits, and that could spell financial ruin for many of them. That's according to a new study just out this morning. It looks at what will happen if Congress can't reach a compromise to extend those benefits and pass another relief bill. NPR's Chris Arnold is reporting on this and joins us this morning. Hi, Chris.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: Why will so many be in trouble right at the end of the year?

Jean lost her job as a school bus driver in Chicago during the pandemic. She was managing OK with unemployment money. But then, about two weeks ago, she got a desperate call from her adult son.

"His job had laid him off, and he wasn't able to pay rent," she says. There was an eviction moratorium in Chicago, but Jean says the landlord wanted her son out anyway.

She says the landlord got someone to threaten her son, and to shoot his dog — a German shepherd mix he'd had for years.

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Updated at 2:56 p.m. ET

FHA mortgages require only a small down payment and are a path to homeownership for many lower-income, minority, and first-time homebuyers. But many are clearly in financial trouble.

The Mortgage Bankers Association says nearly 16% of Federal Housing Administration-insured loans are delinquent — the highest level in records going back to 1979.

Millions of Americans are refinancing their mortgages to save money as superlow interest rates create a rare financial bright spot amid the pandemic.

But homeowners are about to get hit with a big new fee. Starting next month, all home mortgages that are refinanced will have to pay half of 1% of the loan. In other words, $1,500 for a $300,000 mortgage.

Lawmakers in California are rushing to create a new financial protection watchdog agency by the end of the month. They say it's needed because, under the Trump administration, the main federal regulator has been paralyzed.

And they say that during the pandemic that is leaving millions of Americans who are in dire financial straits more vulnerable to predatory lenders, get-out-of-debt-scams and other wrongdoing.

Merry Collins lost her job as a home health aide in Dallas after the coronavirus outbreak hit. Before she started getting $600 a week in extra federal unemployment benefits, she got behind on the rent. And in June her landlord took her to court to evict her.

"The first day the courts opened here in Dallas," she says, "that's when they filed for eviction."

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Americans are buying more guns than ever before. People worried about the pandemic sometimes buy guns. People worried about protests in this country sometimes buy guns. And by one estimate, people have bought 3 million more guns than normal since March. Almost half of all those sales are to first-time gun owners. NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Mandy Collins is 38. She lives in Little Mountain, S.C., with her husband and three kids. And she just spent $450 on a powerful handgun.

Many state and local governments have decided it isn't safe yet to hold in-person eviction hearings in court during the pandemic. But apparently it's OK for people to be put out on the street during the outbreak if you do it after a Zoom call.

That's what's happening in some states as eviction moratoriums expire, and courts hold remote hearings for people who can't pay their rent.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people's credit getting destroyed.

But much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

About 17 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the U.S. in recent weeks. It's an astonishing number that's nearly 10 times what the system has ever handled so quickly.

Updated on April 15 at 11:19 a.m. ET

Those $1,200 federal payments to help Americans through the coronavirus crisis have started arriving in some people's bank accounts via direct deposit. But many people will have to wait longer — and there could be pitfalls, such as debt collectors grabbing the money before you do.

Those who'll be getting checks in the mail may not see them for weeks or even months. To get the money faster, millions of people will have to provide direct-deposit account information to the IRS.

Rent is due for the first time since millions of Americans lost their jobs or incomes as the coronavirus pandemic shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy.

Many renters are in a tough financial spot because they received fewer protections out of the $2 trillion economic rescue package than homeowners did.

The federal government took a major step toward helping homeowners this week, ordering lenders to give people hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic up to a 12-month break on their mortgage payments.

But what about renters?

Many cities say they're halting evictions if renters can't pay. But that's about it, says Laurie Goodman, co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

Updated at 2:49 p.m. ET

Homeowners who have lost income or their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak are getting some relief. Depending on their situation, they should be eligible to have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to 12 months.

As the economy rapidly shuts down, many small businesses around the country are on the verge of collapsing. They have a message for the federal government: Please send money fast or we'll be out of business.

After the financial crisis hit in 2008, millions of Americans who worked at small businesses lost their jobs. It happened in just a matter of months. That's because many smaller businesses operate kind of like people who live paycheck to paycheck, without much savings.

In an unprecedented attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of stores and other businesses are closing their doors to customers.

Apple, Nike, Patagonia and scores of other retailers are closing thousands of stores across the country. In the nation's largest cities — New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — officials said they were ordering restaurants, bars, and cinemas to close. Restaurants will be permitted to do takeout business.

In what's looking more like a public health debacle, the U.S. has a serious testing problem with the coronavirus. Only around 15,000 people have been tested so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And public health experts say that's not nearly enough to know how widespread the outbreak is and how to respond.

But the Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new test from the giant pharmaceutical company Roche that could represent a major breakthrough.

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