On a recent fall afternoon, Marcela Urdiales joined a handful of her neighbors on the grass outside their apartment complex in Prince George's County, Maryland.
One after the other, the residents of the complex, called Franklin Park at Greenbelt Station, listed off the hardships unleashed by the covid-19 pandemic. They spoke of lost jobs, decimated incomes and heightened fears of losing their homes.
Their anguish resonated with Urdiales, a 38-year-old single mother born in Ecuador. When the pandemic hit, she could no longer find work cleaning homes for the elderly. Little by little, she used up the $6,000 she had in savings to try to keep her rent payments up to date.
During much of the pandemic, she and her two children were protected by federal and state eviction moratoriums, actions taken by authorities to minimize the impact of the pandemic on tenants. But both were lifted in August. Around the same time, a judge ruled that Urdiales and her family owed nearly $9,000 in accumulated rent.