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In Hearing On Bipartisan Federal Eviction Moratorium Congressman Krishnamoorthi Exposes Myth That Poor Americans Work Less Than The Wealthy

July 27, 2021
Press Release
In 2015, witness Joel Griffith claimed “the average poor family doesn’t work nearly as much as the rich families do. And that’s a key reason why these households are poor.”

WASHINGTON – In today’s hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on pandemic evictions, Congressman Krishnamoorthi addressed myths promoted by critics of the pandemic eviction moratorium established by President Trump, extended by President Biden, and reaffirmed repeatedly by Congress. In exchanges with Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Joel Griffith, a Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, the Congressman highlighted the numerous children and families protected by the moratorium, the long hours worked by families renting their homes, and the fact that renters protected by the moratorium are still required to do everything possible to continue paying their rent.

Most notably, the Congressman confronted Griffith on an article he wrote in 2015 claiming poor Americans weren’t working hard while turning to Yentel to put the reality of the hours worked by struggling Americans in context, particularly as they struggle to pay rent during the pandemic:

Congressman Krishnamoorthi: Mr. Griffith, I want to turn your attention to an article that you wrote with a gentleman named Stephen Moore, it's entitled the myth of the idle rich and in that particular article which you penned in June of 2015, you said the following: “yes the average poor family doesn't work nearly as much as the rich families do and that's a key reason why these households are poor.” You don't dispute that you wrote that in this article, “The Myth of the Idol Rich,” correct?

Mr. Griffith: I did co-author that article.

Congressman Krishnamoorthi: Now Ms. Yentel, is it your experience that the reason why households are on average poor is because they just don't work as hard as rich families do.

Ms. Yentel: No certainly not. When we look at extremely low income renters, we find that the vast majority of them are seniors, they are people with disabilities or they are working and they're often having to work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet and still have difficulty paying the rent. That's because the housing wage, the amount that somebody needs to earn an hour just to be able to afford to rent a modest one-bedroom apartment, is $20. 40 cents an hour nationally. It's much higher in some communities, clearly this is almost three times the amount that a low-wage worker earning the federal minimum wage earns and it's also two dollars an hour more than what the average renter earns. So, renters are working and they're working hard, but housing remains out of reach for them.

Congressman Krishnamoorthi: For that type of family that that some people think just aren't working hard enough and poor how were they affected by the pandemic and the economic recession that it induced?

Ms. Yentel: Well one I would say that many, many low-wage workers throughout the pandemic were not able to stay at home. As higher wage workers were able to work virtually, low-wage workers were keeping stores open, they were the ones who were selling and sharing PPE and other essential services and goods that people needed during the pandemic. And as a result, many of them contracted to COVID-19 and likely died from it as well. So people continued to work during the pandemic and many low-income renters were among those low-wage workers who were first to lose their jobs or lose hours at work, lose wages when the shutdown occurred, and as a result fell behind on rent.

“While it is essential that we continue to provide support to landlords affected by the coronavirus crisis, there is no question that the bipartisan federal eviction moratorium instituted by the CDC under President Trump and continued under President Biden prevented more than a million working families from being left without homes during this pandemic,” Congressman Krishnamoorthi noted after the hearing. “Despite the myths around this moratorium which have been promoted like too many other conspiracy theories over the last year and a half, the reality is that this policy protected many families who struggled to pay their rent during the economic crisis created by the pandemic despite their frequently working long hours and continuing to pay their rent to the best of their ability as was specifically required by the moratorium.”

Footage of Congressman Krishnamoorthi’s question line is available here.

In his questioning of Diane Yentel, President and CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Congressman Krishnamoorthi also highlighted the number of families that significantly benefited from the bipartisan eviction moratorium.

Congressman Krishnamoorthi: Ms. Yentel, can you tell me how many children have been in homes that have basically benefited from this eviction moratorium?

Ms. Yentel: I don’t have the specific number of children, but I can say that the CDC eviction moratorium, generally speaking, has kept tens of millions of renters who would have otherwise left their homes, stably housed. And there was researcher from the eviction lab which showed that there were at least 1.5 million fewer under the federal eviction moratorium than otherwise would have occurred.

Congressman Krishnamoorthi: And that was the eviction moratorium that Donald Trump put in place, correct?

Ms. Yentel: President Donald Trump implemented the CDC eviction moratorium, President Biden has extended it several times and, in between, Congress, on a bipartisan basis, extended the federal eviction moratorium giving clear congressional authority for it.

Near the end of his question line, Congressman Krishnamoorthi turned to the myth of renters being freed completely from paying monthly rent during the moratorium:

Congressman Krishnamoorthi: Ms. Yentel, let’s just clarify something -people aren’t allowed to live rent free during the moratorium, correct?

Ms. Yentel: Correct, rent is still due when people are under the eviction moratorium. In fact, the declaratory statement that tenants need to sign in order to get the benefit of the federal eviction moratorium makes clear that they need to still do all that they can do pay the rent, and many renters have.