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Rent strike idea gaining steam during coronavirus crisis

ST. LOUIS (AP) — With millions of people suddenly out of work and rent due at the first of the month, some tenants are vowing to go on a rent strike until the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and St. Louis are among many cities that have temporarily banned evictions, but advocates for the strike are demanding that rent payments be waived, not delayed, for those in need during the crisis. The rent strike idea has taken root in parts of North America and as far away as London.

White sheets are being hung in apartment windows to show solidarity with the movement that is gaining steam on Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. Fliers urging people to participate are being posted in several cities, including bus stops in St. Louis, where 27-year-old Kyle Kofron still has his job at an ice cream factory, but his three roommates have suddenly found themselves unemployed. Their property manager so far hasn’t agreed to a payment plan, Kofron said.

“For me personally, with everyone losing their jobs and unable to pay, it’s really the only thing we can do,” Kofron said of the strike. “It’s just like we the people have to do something. We just can’t stand idly by while the system takes us for a ride.”

Stay-at-home orders and strict limits on gathering sizes have forced shops, restaurants and bars to shut down indefinitely. Many service industry workers thrust into unemployment are living paycheck-to-paycheck in the best of times. Now, many say they don’t have the money to pay rent.

Some politicians have expressed support, if not directly for a strike, then for a temporary rent moratorium, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

In New York, the state hit hardest so far by the pandemic, Democratic state Sen. Mike Gianaris of Queens introduced a bill that would forgive rent and mortgage payments for 90 days for people and small businesses struggling because of the coronavirus. It has 21 co-sponsors.

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