Families worry as new eviction deadline nears

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Renters who haven’t been able to pay their dues because they lost their job or have been struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic now have a little more time. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended her eviction moratorium to the end of the month, it was originally set to expire 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

The extension changes little for concerned families who continue to struggle making ends meet, they’re not sure that will change any time soon. 

“I am not playing games, this is serious,” Marco Garcia said. “I have a 6-month-old son, you know, I need the money the government said they were going to give us. I just wish people could see the situation from someone else’s shoes.”

Money and time, both running out for Garcia, his fiancé and their young son Rogelio. The unemployment checks stopped coming, but the rent will still be due. 

“Three weeks I’ve had no money. Three weeks. There wasn’t a notification, there wasn’t a warning. It’s hard because you plan on and expect that check and then, suddenly, you’re not getting it,” Garcia said. 

To help get through this difficult time, the Garcias had come to rely on the weekly unemployment checks.

“The whole time I was getting unemployment, something I’ve never had to depend on by the way, I was trying not to rely on it,” Garcia said. “I was trying so hard not to rely on it, but then you think it’s your check. You think it’s your money, so you do rely on it.”

He says he’s now stuck in the middle of a circle, needing money to pay his landlord back owed rent for the last few months. His landlord needing money to pay bills of their own too.

“I’m here at their place of business basically,” Garcia said. “They have the right to kick me out if I don’t have the money at the end of this, but this is not a normal situation, the COVID thing affected everybody.”

Experts say it disproportionately affected African Americans like Michael Parhum, a single father of three.

“It is something that is really hard to cope with, especially being black,” Parhum said. “As far as the eviction thing goes… they don’t care about families. They care about money. That’s all they care about, you could be a day late, they still want you out.”

Parhum and his young family now potentially face homelessness for the second time this year.

Before the pandemic, Parhum and Garcia both were cooks for local restaurants. They were let go on the same day — Friday, March 13. 

“That’s the crazy part of it. I went in to work because I saw on the news, they were shutting everything down. I said to my boss, they said they’re shutting everything down. I talked to the owner, and he said, yeah, I’m sorry, man,” Parhum said. “I had to file for unemployment, nothing I could do about it.”

Now restaurants have started reopening both men are holding out on the hope their former places of employment will reach out to them with their old jobs back. There is concern however if they take them, they will miss out on back dated unemployment checks that have still not come. 

“I’m an adult. I am a man. I need to do this myself,” Garcia said. “I have my son; I need to provide for him and my fiancé no matter what happens.”

They’re both asking for a little grace. 

“You just need to practice empathy,” Garcia said. “Most of the time a lot of the higher up officials and people that own a lot of things don’t have empathy towards people they view lower on the totem pole than themselves. We’re all in this together, all struggling truth be told.”