Brandy Granados felt like she was just getting back on her feet. After spending the summer without a home, she was working with a temp agency at UPS and living in an apartment with her 8-year-old son, Jude, and a roommate.
Then two weeks ago, she was told by UPS “her assignment had ended.” And with schools closed due to the coronavirus, she’s focusing much of her energy on Jude, who Brandy says, has trouble concentrating and was getting specialized instruction at school.
Unable to work, Granados doesn’t know how she’ll pay her rent in April.
“Something like this, a public health emergency that I have no control over, may very well plunge me into a crisis. It's terrifying,” Granados said.
She said she’s taken a title loan out on her car and worries she’ll have to choose between her primary mode of transportation or paying rent.
Granados is part of the tenant advocacy group KC Tenants, which is calling on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to enact a series of measures to protect low-income renters and people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis.
In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly has issued an executive order suspending all business and residential evictions until May 1 amid the outbreak. And eviction proceedings in court are temporarily suspended in Jackson County. This week, a judge also halted any forcible removal of tenants from their homes, after the KC Tenants intervened while a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy was evicting a woman from her home.
The group now wants Parson to extend that moratorium statewide.
“This crisis demonstrates, more clearly than any recent moment, why we cannot continue to treat housing as a commodity,” advocate Jenay Manley said.
“General guidance these days is to stay home. Tenants can’t stay home if we don’t have a safe home, if we don’t have a clean home and we don’t have a healthy home,” she said.
The group is also calling on Parson to enact a rent and mortgage holiday, which would suspend all rent or mortgage payments for the duration of the state of emergency. They want landlords to essentially zero-out rent so there’s not a tidal wave of bills once a state of emergency in Kansas City and Jackson County ends.
So far, no other state has enacted such a measure. Barring a rent holiday, the group is asking for a rent freeze so landlords can’t raise rents during the crisis.
Parson's office did not immediately respond to KCUR's request for comment.
The KC Tenants is also asking for additional resources for homeless populations, like converting vacant hotels and schools into shelters and build emergency sanitation sites near homeless encampments or transit hubs.
Attorney Gina Chiala, with the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, said any aid package to assist renters must last beyond the state of emergency, to prevent a wave of evictions once it’s lifted.
The KC Tenants has established a fund to help those struggling with basic needs like groceries or other supplies.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.