Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 |
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LIHU‘E — The $1,300 Racquel Burns pays for her three-bedroom home is seeming harder and harder to get.
A self-employed housekeeper and painter, Burns has 10 clients on the island ranging from elderly residences to vacation rentals, but she hasn’t worked at all in the past 20 days.
“Ever since COVID-19, I haven’t had work since March 11,” she said.
Last week, her landlord came by. When she explained her situation, they cut her a break: She can split up her payment for April, paying half on the 1st and half on the 15th. She was able to borrow some money and scrape together this month’s rent, but she’s not sure how she and her wife will pay for May.
Her landlord has given her a break before. About three years ago, she was renting a studio apartment, and when the three-bedroom home opened, the landlord asked her if she wanted to move in. She couldn’t afford the $1,850 rent, and they agreed to cut the rent to $1,300.
“[They’re] a fair person,” Burns said. “And I understand the situation, but how am I suppose to pay rent when we’re on lockdown?”
Burns describes herself as a hard worker, one who typically works four to five months with no days off “just to live.”
“I ain’t got no work,” she said. “Vacation rentals are canceled.” And for the elderly she cleans for, she’s scared to enter their homes on the off chance she’s an unknown carrier. “They’re susceptible.”
Burns is self-employed and said she doesn’t qualify for unemployment, however, her wife does and they are waiting for that check. When she expressed her fear for not being able to pay rent, she said her landlord told her that’s what the federal stimulus and unemployment checks are for.
“But how am I suppose to eat?” she said during an interview this week. “It seems unfair.”
Property manager Russell Kyono with Kaua‘i Rentals and Real Estate has seen both sides. He works as a liaison between owners and tenants for over 400 properties on the island.
“Tenants are panicking,” he said. “And owners are very sympathetic.”
Most tenants have their April rents, but since many have been laid off or furloughed in mid-March, it’ll be after April that he’s anticipating challenges.
“It’s when we start running into May and June we’ll see issues because [tenants are] out of work,” he said. “Not one owner I’ve come across wouldn’t want to help.”
In many cases, he said employment is one of the biggest issues.
“If the economy doesn’t get up, then we’ll be looking at a lot of rents and real estate going down,” he said.
Unemployment offices are inundated with over 80,000 new unemployment claims in March, according to the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawai‘i. The CARES Act will bring in about $1.14 billion in estimated unemployment assistance throughout the state.
The county has its own protections in place for renters, according to Mayor Derek Kawakami during the Mar. 31 COVID-19 Daily Update.
The Kaua‘i County Housing Agency has adopted a policy of no evictions on county-owned properties and no foreclosures of county-issued mortgage loans. The county will also waive any late fees for missed or untimely payments.
“When this emergency is behind us, we will work with our tenants and holders of county loans to work out reasonable payment plans,” Kawakami read from a statement from the department.
The policy also extends to residents who are recipients of rental assistance through the county. Those who have been furloughed or laid off are encouraged to contact the Housing Agency to document the loss of income and possible have an increase in rental assistance.
Federally, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act also has protections for homeowners and renters.
Those with federally-backed mortgage loans are prohibited from initiating foreclosures or evictions. And those who have federally-backed mortgages experiencing financial hardships can request leniency from their loan service for up to 180 days.
Until July 26, renters on property where owners have federally-guaranteed loans or participate in federal housing programs cannot be evicted or charged additional fees for unpaid rent.
In his business, Kyono said he’s encouraging owners to be lenient and cooperate with tenants, as have many other property managers around the island, he said.
“This is not a time to get down on tenants for being down,” Kyono said.
In all, it comes down, too, to what’s going on with the mainland. Since the largest industry on Kaua‘i is tourism, until visitors return and businesses open up, Kaua‘i will remain on uneven ground, Kyono suggested.
“I’ve been through two hurricanes,” he said. “This is nothing like that. This is uncharted water.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at
245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racquel Burns I think you may be mistaken about not being eligible for unemployment. Under these emergency circumstances I believe those who are “gig workers” ARE eligible. If you filed taxes for the cleaning, painting and any other miscellaneous work you did, I think that you can receive it. Give them a call and see. I hope I’m right.
Racquel you are mis-informed, you can in fact collect unemployment at this time. because of this crisis, fed and state have widened the criteria for being approved and now covers independent contractors, gig workers, etc. You should get online and apply asap.
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