Things That Matter

Some U.S. Landlords Are Trying To Coerce Their Tenants Into Having Sex If They Can’t Pay For Their Rent During The Coronavirus Pandemic

People across the world are experiencing the impact of the coronavirus crisis on their finances, as businesses and governments struggle to respond to the pandemic.

And whenever people are struggling amid a crisis – whether it be in the aftermath of hurricanes, tornados, or a pandemic – there are sure to be people looking to take advantage of vulnerable people. The latest example is a report showing that a growing number of landlords are looking to exploit desperate tenants for sex in exchange for rent.

Some U.S. landlords are taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis by trying to coerce their cash-strapped tenants into “sex-for-rent” agreements.

According to a report by BuzzFeed News some landlords are using the crisis as an opportunity to sexually harass renters, even asking for sex in exchange for rent. 

Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, told BuzzFeed: “the conditions are ripe for sexual exploitation.” Disturbingly, she said her commission received more reports of cases in two days than it has in the last two years.

“Landlord coercion has always been a reality, but we’ve never seen anything like this,” Jabola-Carolus said. “The coronavirus creates the perfect conditions for landlords who want to do this because not only are people being instructed to stay home, but the virus has added to the economic stress with people losing their jobs, especially in Hawaii, which is driven by tourism.”

In response, Jabola-Carolus published an online guide for women responding to sexual harassment.

In this guide, she wrote that her commission has seen a spike in reports of landlords pressuring tenants who are struggling to pay rent into “arrangements.”

Jabola-Carolus also wrote in her guide that landlords conducting themselves in this manner in America is a “violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and state landlord-tenant code” and provided advice for people who are impacted.

The report also states that landlords who sexually harass tenants are often repeat offenders, so it’s best to keep a record of their behaviour and tell someone you trust about it, because the law is on your side.

In particular, women of color and trans women are often the most likely to be targeted for sexual harassment by landlords.

This new crisis comes amid a growing wave of unemployment related to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of people around the world have either been laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic as governments impose harsh lockdown measures to curb the spread of the disease. But unscrupulous landlords are attempting to exploit vulnerable tenants who find themselves mired in financial trouble and are unable to pay rent.

In facts, in the last week more than 5 million people filed for first-time unemployment benefits – that brings the total of unemployed Americans to nearly 22 million.

Although some states have enacted eviction and rent moratoriums, many experts agree that these measures may not be enough to keep low and middle-class residents in their homes. According to to the National Multifamily Housing Council, only 69% of apartment renters had paid their April rent, down from 81% the previous month.

Advocates like Renee Williams, a senior staff attorney at the National Housing Law Project, suspect that as tenants continue to struggle economically, there will be heightened reports of sexual harassment enacted by landlords in the upcoming months.

Tenants experiencing harassment can file a report with the Justice Department, which oversees an initiative to curtail sexual harassment in housing and has filed several lawsuits against landlords in recent years.

No Fireworks, No Character Greets: Walt Disney World Prepares For Weekend Reopening

Entertainment

No Fireworks, No Character Greets: Walt Disney World Prepares For Weekend Reopening

Todd Anderson / Disney Parks via Getty Images

Walt Disney World was one of the first major closures brought on by COVID-19. After months of being closed, Wat Disney World announced that they will be partially reopening this weekend. Some Floridians are begging for the company to reconsider.

Walt Disney World is planning to reopen Saturday, July 11.

For Central Florida, the reopening of Walt Disney World after Universal Studios and SeaWorld is a welcomed influx of money. However, the park’s reopening is concerning Floridians who say that the state is not ready for such a reopening because of the current spike of COVID-19 cases in the Sunshine State.

A petition is pleading with Governor Ron DeSantis to postpone Walt Disney World’s reopening.

Credit: MoveOn.Org

Florida is among the states experiencing major spikes in COVID-19 cases. Recently, Florida reported more than 11,000 cases in a single day. The MoveOn.Org petition is calling for Gov. DeSantis to prioritize the health of residents over the opening of Disney World.

“This virus is not gone, unfortunately it’s only become worse in this state. Having our theme parks remain closed until cases are steadily decreasing would keep our guests, our employees and their families safe,” reads the petition. “Re-opening the theme parks is only putting our guests, employees, and families at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. While theme parks are a great way to relax and enjoy free time, it is a non-essential business; it is not fair to the people who work there to risk their lives, especially if they are at risk or have family members who are at risk. People are more important than making a profit.”

The theme park had a reopening preview to show the new normal while at the park.

Disney cast members were given a chance to explore the park and the new safety regulations in place to protect guests from COVID-19. For two days, “guests” were able to enjoy the full park for the first time since March when the theme park had to close because of COVID-19.

One union has filed a grievance with Walt Disney World ahead of the reopening.

The Actors’ Equity Association, which represents 750 Walt Disney World performers filed a grievance of retaliation. The union claims that their members are being punished by Disney after demanding tests for performers because they are not able to social distance on June 25. On June 26, Disney rescinded notice recalling the performers for work.

“Seven unions signed agreements to have their employees return to work, the Actors’ Equity rejected our safety protocols and have not made themselves available to continue negotiations, which is unfortunate,” a Disney spokeswoman said in a statement, according to WTVBAM. “We are exercising our right to open without Equity performers.”

Some people were quick to use Disney’s own creations to highlight the kind of reopening they expect.

Oof. So far, there has been no mention so signaling from Walt Disney World that the reopening will be postponed. Twitter is filled with people both excited and appalled that the happiest place on earth is reopening. Some people hope that Disney magic will be worth the risk.

READ: Demi Lovato Says She Left Disney Channel Because Of Her Eating Disorder

The U.S. Passport Was Once The World’s Strongest, It’s Fallen To 25th Place Thanks To Failed Leadership Amid Coronavirus

Things That Matter

The U.S. Passport Was Once The World’s Strongest, It’s Fallen To 25th Place Thanks To Failed Leadership Amid Coronavirus

Bloomberg / Getty Images

Not that we should be traveling right now, as the country’s Coronavirus pandemic continues to spiral out of control – but it’s worth noting that our international options are fewer than they were just months ago.

Historically, the U.S. passport has been seen as the golden ticket to travel with ease across the international community as it was once regarded as one of the strongest passports in the world. But that’s changing.

You can blame the drop in standing of the U.S. passport on our elected leaders who have massively failed to gain an upper hand on this health crisis. As other countries have demonstrated an ability to control Coronavirus within their borders, the U.S. has failed miserably. And that failure – in addition to more than 3 million infections and 130,000 deaths – has resulted in Americans simply being turned away from international destinations.

The U.S. passport dropped in visa-free access from 7th to 25th place as a result of our Coronavirus failures.

In what is a double whammy for the United States, the country recently crossed the three-million mark in terms of the number of registered COVID-19 cases, and more than 132,000 people have died from the disease. Now, its handling of the pandemic has drastically diminished power of its passport. 

Before the pandemic, the U.S. was regularly listed in the Top 10 on the Henley Passport Index, an annual ranking of the number of countries a passport gets you into without a visa. The ranking is based on data from the International Air Transport Association. The US usually comes in sixth or seventh and topped the list as recently as 2014. Before the coronavirus pandemic, a US passport would get you into 185 destinations around the world without the need for a visa at all or a visa on arrival.

According to the latest Henley Passport Index, U.S. passports now have access to only 158 countries, putting it on par with a Mexican passport, a significant decline from its previous top 10 ranking in 2014.

“We see an emergence of a new global hierarchy in terms of mobility, with countries that have effectively managed the pandemic taking the lead, and countries that have handled it poorly falling behind,” says Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, according to Forbes.

The biggest drop came as a result of the European Union banning entry to U.S. citizens.

Many countries across the globe are beginning to open back up as they get their Coronavirus outbreaks under control, and they are limiting or banning travel with countries where the virus is running rampant — including the United States. 

In fact, as Europe has slowly started to reopen its borders to international tourists, it’s specifically left off the U.S. Europe’s decision is responsible for the largest drop in the power of the U.S. passport.

Recently, five Americans who flew to Sardinia on a private jet were turned away and governors in Mexico are advocating for tighter border measures to prevent Americans from going into the country and spreading the virus. 

The U.S. passport is now equal in strength to that of Mexico and Uruguay.

It’s no secret that citizenship is the main factor behind preserving global inequalities today and that simply holding a U.S. passport can grant you access to so many more destinations. But now, Americans are getting to swee just how your government’s actions – or failures – can result in you being treated differently on the global level.

Thanks to America’s failure at combating the virus, U.S. citizens now hold passports that have around the same level of travel freedom as citizens of Mexico (#25 on Henley Passport Index, with a score of 159) and Uruguay (#28, with a score of 153).

Coronavirus continues to rage out of control across the U.S., so it should go without saying that an international trip is not a good idea right now.

Countries are closing their doors to Americans, as the outbreak in the US — the worst in the world — nears 3 million infections with over 131,000 deaths.

The US last week surpassed 50,000 new daily coronavirus cases, and that trend has been maintained this week with multiple states and cities recording record-high new infections, hospitalizations, or deaths. 

Another factor playing into travel restrictions – beyond the surging of cases in the U.S., is that America’s health care system is decentralized, unpredictable and unequal.

Tourism is essential for the economies of many destinations—and the livelihoods of individuals and families—and plays a role in reducing poverty. But right now is not the time for Americans to be traveling.