SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — Official orders shift daily, but rent is still due in two weeks for many in the region. And, in the meantime, it’s not clear whether any local apartment complexes have implemented adjusted rent policies in light of the coronavirus, which has already had a major impact on the region’s (and the nation’s) economy.
Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper announced a new executive order that will close all bars and restaurants, leaving businesses to offer their products through takeout and delivery only. With stay-at-home directives already in place, revenue is already drying up at many local businesses, forced to cut staff or hours to stay afloat.
The greater Wilmington area is rooted in a service-driven workforce. These individuals already struggle to secure affordable housing in the growing region. Nearly 40% of the city’s residents are considered cost-burdened, spending more than one-third of their gross income on housing.
While out-of-work employees scramble to collect unemployment benefits, the rent bill looms. Some local businesses have announced plans to soften the financial blow for employees. What are apartment complexes doing?
Apartment complexes in Cape Fear region
Have any considered deferring rent payments, reducing payments for loss of income, or offering any other form of short-term assistance?
Calls and messages left with local apartment complexes, including City Block, went unreturned Tuesday. A corporate representative of Bell Partners, which manages Indy West, Mayfaire Flats, Meridian At Fairfield Park, Sawmill Point, and the Reserve at Mayfaire, said the company is considering additional measures.
“We have been keeping a close watch on COVID-19 and following all instructions and guidelines from the authorities. We have proactively taken measures to minimize exposure and encourage social distancing for our residents and associates, such as closing amenity spaces, canceling events and directing residents to use our online portal for payments and services. We are monitoring the situation constantly as it develops, and are actively considering what additional measures we can take to support our associates and residents, including how we can ease the impact of COVID-19 on our residents’ livelihoods.” John Perilli, spokesperson for Bell Partners wrote in a statement.
Reached Tuesday morning, a representative at Hawthorne at New Centre said nothing has changed and rent is due on the first across all of the company’s complexes. The local representative hung up when asked for her name. A corporate representative has not returned a call or message at press time.
Like small businesses and people, apartment complexes and management companies rely on steady revenue, too. Large companies are more likely to weather the financial impact compared to smaller ones, which often lack the capital to make it through a crisis like Covid-19 on their own.
Recent changes to U.S. labor laws, which in turn allowed the state to streamline access to unemployment, could help cover the cost of housing for the time being.
Monday, a group of local restaurant owners asked the governor to shut down business operations so that employees could begin to collect unemployment. Tuesday, that happened, following the White House’s plea late Monday to close all of the nation’s schools, restaurants, gyms, bars, and other spaces.
The governor’s service industry announcement was twofold: close establishments and remove barriers for workers in need of unemployment benefits.
Those who recently lost hours or employment can apply for benefits online. In an effort to dampen the economic hit of the virus, the executive order removes the one-week waiting period requirement and requirement that individuals find another job. Employers are not responsible for benefits paid, which opens up the option for small businesses to hire back recently laid-off employees.
Dolling out an average $265 a week, North Carolina ranks 41st in the nation when it comes to providing unemployment benefits. Its average 8.6-week duration is the second-shortest in the U.S., behind only Georgia, where recipients accept benefits an average of 7.9 weeks.
At maximum, the state will pay $350 in unemployment claims per week for a maximum of 20 weeks.
If making a rent payment presents an issue for area residents, for the time being, there are no evictions are currently taking place. The North Carolina Court System has suspended foreclosures, evictions, and all other non-emergency proceedings for 30 days.
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