As one of the most developed countries in the world, it was hard for anyone to believe that the United States would be a part of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

America is deemed by many as the “leader of the free world” and “economic leader” of the world. For a country that possesses such power in the world, we seemed to be invincible—untouchable.

So, coronavirus shouldn’t be the exception to the norm, right?

Wrong. The coronavirus doesn’t heed to privilege.

Since the coronavirus knocked at our country’s door in January, the virus has infected 4.75 million people as of Aug. 6, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Immediately, life as we knew it changed. Yet, some still don’t understand the gravitas of the situation.

A few months ago, if this situation was described to anyone in America, they would have scoffed and said that it would simply not be possible.

But, it’s time that we take a moment to strongly consider the lives that have been affected by this pandemic.

In just the first two weeks of the pandemic, 9 million Americans filed for unemployment, whereas with a healthy economy, less than a million would do so, according to NPR reports.

In the first month of the pandemic, unemployment rates increased in Missouri by 1,883% according to that same NPR report.

With roughly 1.2 million people filing for unemployment in the United States this past week, these rates don’t seem to be slowing down.

According to a housing study by Harvard University, 10.9 million American renters spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

Those 10.9 million Americans equate to approximately 1 in 4 renters. Twenty-five percent of renters have to suffer through this economic burden every month.

So in a time like this, what does America expect of these individuals?

It is essential that we support the many people who are unable to support themselves at this time.

Lawmakers must take this into consideration when taking their next steps.

According to The Week, since 1960, renters’ median earnings have gone up 5% while rents have risen by 61%. Only 37 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low- income renter households.

The coronavirus has only accentuated these numbers.

For many of us, practicing social distancing and hunkering down is our modality to stay safe. But what about those that are in the low-income renter demographic? What are they supposed to do when they cannot pay their rent in these hard times?

America is built on the concept of equality. That includes everyone no matter the socioeconomic status, race or gender of the individual.

It is time to protect every American’s human rights and give them an equal chance in today’s unfathomable circumstances.

Many have already been affected and have felt the brunt of this contagion. Americans have been laid off and are unable to pay their rent, leading them to either eviction or the verge of it.

In order to combat this, I urge our members of Congress to support the next coronavirus relief bill that provides $4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants for homelessness assistance.

Times of trouble call for times of action. We need solutions from the lawmakers that will institute a much-needed national temporary moratorium on evictions for the renters and foreclosures for the homeowners with federally-backed assistance.

Senators and representatives, your words aren’t enough. The people of the United States of America need your help.

As Americans, we shouldn’t settle for complacency. Every citizen deserves the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Instead of keeping these as just rights, let’s make them an actuality.

Aashish Allu is a junior at Lafayette High School and volunteers with the St. Louis chapter of RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy group working to end hunger and poverty.

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