For Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO), sleeping away from the comfort of a bed is an unfortunately familiar feeling. Years ago, Bush had to live out of her car for a time with her two young children, all while working a full-time job.
Her experience as an unhoused person drove her to take bold action on July 30, as the federal eviction moratorium was about to expire.
“Many of my Democratic colleagues chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes,” Bush tweeted. “I’ll be sleeping outside the Capitol tonight. We’ve still got work to do.”
For three nights she and other advocates slept on the steps of the Capitol, intermittently joined by House colleagues, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Presley.
Bush also introduced the Unhoused Bill of Rights, a federal resolution calling on Congress to permanently end the unhoused crisis by 2025.
Ultimately, Bush’s organizing succeeded. On August 3, the Biden administration announced a 60-day eviction ban for U.S. counties with “substantial and high levels of community transmission,” which applies to approximately 90 percent of renters across the country.
The federal eviction moratorium coincided with Black Women’s Equal Pay Day 2021, which marks the number of days into the year that the average Black woman has to work to catch up to the average white man’s annual earnings in 2020. Based on recent Census data, Black women make just 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.
If Black women’s earnings continue to grow as slowly as they have since the mid-1980s, it will take them more than 100 years — until 2133 — to reach pay equity with white men.
“Lower pay deprives Black women of resources they need to provide for themselves and their families and over a lifetime can really add up — the loss of earnings in D.C. alone adds up to almost $1 million dollars over 20 years,” said Chandra Childers, lead author of a new report on the wage gap from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
There is a direct correlation between this racial, gendered wage gap and evictions. If Black women had access to the $24,000 they lose annually to the wage gap, they would be better able to keep up with rent.