Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) spoke today on the Senate floor about the looming eviction crisis in Nevada and across the country. She called on the Senate to pass meaningful legislation to help renters and homeowners stay in their homes and get financial support paying their rents or mortgages.
Senator Cortez Masto’s remarks are available in VIDEO FORMAT. Below are her remarks as delivered:
When I’m talking to constituents in Nevada, they look at Washington as a bubble. They don’t really think that things happen here unless they see it on the news. They have no trust in us to come together to work on behalf of our constituents.
I think it is time we focus on what needs to be done in the best interest of our country, instead of focusing on political gain or gamesmanship.
I know every single Senator comes from a state and they care about their constituents. They get emails from their constituents, letters from their constituents. When we go home and claim to be in a recess, it’s not really a recess. We’re home working. We’re talking to our constituents, businesses, and individuals in our states.
And if we are really listening to our constituents—particularly when this pandemic has created the worst health crisis we have seen and has contributed to an economic crisis—then we are hearing that they are struggling right now.
They’re struggling because to save lives, we have asked them to stay at home and shelter in place to stem the spread of this virus. We don’t have a vaccine. We are working on it, but we don’t have it right now. We also need to ramp up testing so we can determine quickly whether you have this virus or the antibodies. But until we can get to that point, we’ve asked everybody to stay home. And they have done it.
I know in my state in Nevada, we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country right now, 20%. Businesses have shuttered, people have stayed home to help us stem the spread of this virus.
And what we told them months ago is that if you do this, our federal government will be there to work with you. We will help you. We will make sure you have money in your pocket so you can afford health care, so that you can pay your bills, so that you can pay your rent and for your food. So that you don’t have any economic insecurity.
We made that commitment to them. We promised them.
And I have to say, we still have to follow that obligation, Mr. President. They’re doing their part. So why aren’t we doing ours?
At the end of the day, you and I both know, and all of our colleagues know, that there is more economic insecurity in this country right now than we’ve ever seen before, because of this pandemic. Food insecurity. Housing insecurity. Job insecurity. Education insecurity—there is a homework gap that we know is happening.
It is really time for us to stop the posturing, stop the political gamesmanship and really do what we committed when we swore an oath to this office when we were sworn in. We swore that we were going to do right by people in this country by looking out for their interests. Not our interests, but the best interests of this country.
And so I come to the floor today to ask my colleagues to try and do what is right for the best interests of this country, now more than ever.
I get letters from constituents. I’ve got one right now, and I can tell you I’ve been inundated with them.
A constituent from Nevada wrote, “I urge you to extend the federal eviction moratorium and include at least $100 billion in funding for emergency rental assistance in the next relief package. This assistance will enable households, including those who have lost jobs, or who were already struggling to pay rent before the pandemic, to remain stably housed and avoid the devastating and long-lasting harms of eviction.”
That’s a constituent—I didn’t write that. They sent it to my office. And in this letter, this Nevadan goes on to say “it is important to be kind and compassionate, especially during this time. We have the opportunity to learn and to do better always. No one should be forced out of their home during a global pandemic.”
Those are some of the letters I’ve received. I know you receive them. I know our colleagues receive them.
That is why today, it is important for us to focus on so much that is happening in the country. Right now, I want to focus on one piece of it that we need to address, which is that right now millions of Americans are concerned about being evicted from their homes.
In the middle of a pandemic, people are concerned that they don’t have the money to pay their rent because we’ve asked them to stay home.
I’ve said this before on the floor of the Senate, and I will say it again: in the middle of a pandemic, housing is health care. Security in your own home is health care.
And yet we have millions of people across the country on the brink of eviction. In mid-July, a quarter of adults reported that they were housing insecure—one in four.
And in more than half of the states in America, eviction bans have expired. That means across the nation, more and more families will have to pack up everything they can carry in the space of hours. There could be 40 million evictions nationwide by the end of the year. And what we have seen amongst the data that comes into all of our offices, is that families of color are likely to be hardest hit.
In my home state of Nevada, experts believe that nearly half a million people are at risk of eviction—perhaps as many as 300,000 of them in Nevada by September. Among renters, up to 47% face that risk. Staving off Nevada evictions could cost $850 million in rental assistance over the next year. That’s just one state.
But all states and local governments have been impacted by this pandemic.
The American people are rightly looking to Congress to address this. They are desperate for us to pass meaningful legislation to get them money to pay their bills, and to enact protections that let them stay in their homes and apartments.
We need to help them now—not months from now. We can’t turn our backs on Americans. Now, more than ever, they need our help. We need the Administration, we need Republican leadership to come to the negotiating table and get real relief passed—not hollow political gestures.
We need a package that will include rental and housing assistance to prevent an epidemic of homelessness and stabilize the housing markets. Because if we don’t—the consequences are going to haunt families and our economy for years.
I know this, take it from me. In Nevada, we saw 200,000 families lose their homes because of the 2008 housing crisis. That foreclosure crisis hit Nevada so hard, and it’s been a long, long road back for so many of them. I am determined to do all I can to keep folks from going through that again and to bring relief.
If I am in a position, like we all are here in Congress, to bring that relief, why aren’t we in a room negotiating? Why aren’t we talking regularly? We did it with the CARES Act immediately. We saw the need, and we did something about it.
Nevadans are already struggling to find work, afford food, and stay healthy during this pandemic, plus help their children learn as schools start to reopen. Families cannot effectively do any of that—none of it—without a safe place to stay, a roof over their heads.
Housing is the key to any sense of stability in our chaotic world right now. It’s time to end the political games. Americans expect it. They need a roof over their heads.
That’s why it’s so vital that we pass legislation to help Nevadans and people all over the country pay their rent and utility bills when they cannot safely go to work because of this health pandemic.
We already have legislation out there. The House passed the HEROES Act which addresses this issue. Our colleagues have introduced legislation, including Senator Brown’s Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act, as well as other bills introduced by my colleagues to keep homeowners in their homes. These bills keep families housed and provide essential stability to the rental and mortgage market.
And it is not just rental stabilization that can help families keep a roof over their heads. Remember, there are a lot of small businesses that are landlords that are shouldering the burden of missed payments. Landlords have bills to pay as well—mortgages, taxes, insurance and staff. Without assistance, many of them may go bankrupt or can be forced to sell their properties.
So let’s focus here on the essentials, the basic need for things like shelter. Let’s keep people safe and off the streets.
Let’s pass Senator Brown’s rental assistance bill, Senator Reed’s Housing Assistance Fund bill to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, Senator Menendez’s housing counseling bill, and the others we need to prevent an epidemic of homelessness.
These bills are in front of us. We have the opportunity to do the right thing. The Senate needs to do its part by making sure those homes are safe and stable, so that Nevadans can teach their children, care for loved ones who are ill, and avoid spreading coronavirus to others. In the midst of a global pandemic, housing is health care, and we owe this to each other.
Mr. President, thank you for listening. Thank you to my colleagues for a least having the ability and the will to try to do something through the legislation that was introduced. But, now more needs to be done.
We can’t just introduce legislation. Now it is time to do our jobs as Senators by bringing that legislation to the floor for debate. Let the American public actually see us working and doing the jobs we promised to do.
It is okay to debate legislation. It is okay to compromise and come forth with good government and good policy that is going to lift us all. That is what the Senate should be doing, and that’s what I look forward to from my colleagues.