The election results of Tuesday either brought a sigh of relief or sorrow. The sport of politics has left us on the edge of our seats for months, with many of us under the misplaced belief that the election results will provide a clear direction or end our collective anxiety. The truth is the election results, at least in the short term, change nothing.
The pandemic remains. The United States Supreme Court will still determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act. Unemployment will continue. The federal debt will continue to climb at a rate none of us find acceptable. Social Security will still be upside down, with more people taking their benefits than those who pay into the system. Tenants affected by COVID-19 physically or economically will remain unable to pay the rent. Predictions have it that 25% of tenants in America will be homeless in January due to the inability to pay the rent for the preceding three to six months. With the moratorium on COVID-19-related evictions ending January 1, evictions will ramp up, and homelessness will increase. Of course, when tenants don’t pay the rent, landlords can’t pay the mortgage, and thus, not only will we see a wave of evictions in the middle of winter and a pandemic, we will also see a wave of foreclosures. Homeowners who have deferred their monthly mortgage payments will see deferment end, and mortgages will go unpaid without a return to full employment. So while we take solace in the government-provided safety nets and the end of an acrimonious election season, the cliff in the not-so-far distance remains.
We may not see the effects of an economic shutdown as quickly in Montana as other states. As with the 2008 recession and COVID-19 cases, we generally lag behind other states in experiencing abrupt changes to our wallets and health. We can look at other states in crisis and predict with some certainty the future for Montana. The growth spurt in population and the cost of housing won’t last forever. Banks and mortgage companies will further tighten lending restrictions as other states experience increased commercial, home and vehicle loan defaults.
Regardless of the election results, the next few months are going to be rocky. As we hunker down physically, we should consider hunkering down financially to weather the brewing storm held off by government assistance that expires in January. We have no certainty that with the election results comes a financial windfall to Americans that will offset the fiscal cliff that lies ahead.
Government works at a glacial pace. Political promises, like warm weather, are unlikely to be delivered in the next six months. Hunker down, save money and ride out the storm.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.
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