As the partisan battle over the Coronavirus Stimulus Package rages on, real estate industry professionals are taking matters into their own hands by sending a number of letters and petitions to Congress — the latest of which has gained more than 3,300 signatures on Change.org in one day.
Entitled “Real estate agent relief needed because of COVID-19,” the online petition asks federal and state lawmakers to remember real estate professionals as they craft financial aid packages and make decisions about essential and non-essential workers.
“The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise rapidly, with social and economic repercussions becoming more evident and more pronounced,” wrote petition author and ListReports SVP Jennifer DuBois. “Given that economic uncertainty and expected job losses will likely reduce demand for homes and place downward pressure on home prices, the impact on the real estate industry is unknown.”
“This rapidly changing situation is leaving real agents and brokers with a host of questions and no clear answers on the long-term effect on their livelihood,” DuBois added.
In the petition, DuBois asks that several measures be taken at the state and federal level:
- “Emergency Medicaid health insurance for those who are uninsured,
- One-hundred billion in government-backed, low-interest loans, to help support the commission income that is disappearing,
- Equal relief and aid funding of self-employed agents, as we are not covered under the current proposed relief bills being voted on at the federal level,
- Ensure open access to county recorder and auditors’ offices, so that real estate property records can be accurately maintained and available for all,
- Ensure that banking and lending are defined by state law as “essential services” so as to allow for limited work and resources outside of shelter-in-place orders, and
- Loosen restrictions on e-closings, if any; and, remove any restrictions that may exist related to working from ‘unlicensed’ location.”
Supporters shared impassioned pleas underneath DuBois’ petition, which included stories from spouses, family members and friends of real estate agents, and real estate agents themselves.
“I’m a new agent, a single mother of four, [this is] the only income for my home,” wrote Nashville-based agent Tarsha Simmons. “[I] became an agent to provide for my children, and now that has come to a standstill.”
“The neighbors I once helped are now helping me,” Simmons added. “I put my all into starting this business and now it is at a standstill. Relief would help so many of us in this time of uncertainty.”
“Agents not only help people build up their own wealth through homeownership but also help to build the economy and are a vital part of our society,” Adrianna Barbosa wrote. “They are also affected [by] this unprecedented moment in history. They need assistance if the government is not allowing them to work.”
DuBois is close to the 5,000 signature mark, after which Change.org will send the petition to Congress members and all 50 state governors.
“We the undersigned plead with our elected officials to hear our warnings and cries for help as we not only see our own economic plight but also the sacrifice of our livelihoods as we struggle to keep our communities healthy,” DuBois concluded.
DuBois’ petition comes on the heels of letters by leadership at the National Association of Realtors, the California Association of Realtors, Compass and ANGI Homeservices asking Congress to provide aid not only to real estate agents but to other home professionals (e.g. home repair) and self-employed workers in other industries.
As of March 24, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is small business owners and self-employed workers’ only source of federal help, with two weeks of mandated paid sick leave that will be reimbursed through tax credits.
The current Coronavirus Stimulus Package offers $350 billion for small businesses (up from $300 billion in a previous version), and now includes unemployment insurance that gives recipients 100 percent of their salary, based on 2018 tax returns.