NC families need rent and utility assistance, right now

And the General Assembly is holding onto Billions that could help with that:

“Because of COVID, millions of U.S. households risk being evicted in early 2021 because they are behind in their rent with no prospect of catching up without help,” said Leslie Winner, co-chair of the Leadership Forum and a volunteer lawyer for Pisgah Legal Services.

“We’re looking at potentially 300,000 evictions come January,” said Rick Glazier, executive director of the Justice Center. “There are probably another 800,000 other total folks who are in utility arrearages in this state. Those kind of numbers, which is why we’re having this discussion today, would overwhelm the courts and social service agencies in this state.” To prevent such a situation, people need the time to work out arrangements for how and whether they can pay their rent, Glazier said.

I don't want to undercut what Rick is saying, but kicking that can down the road with some sort of "payment plan" is just not enough. I'm in a radical mood, so here's a radical idea: The state should use that $4 Billion surplus to buy up people's rent debt. Private debt collectors do this all the time, pay 50c on the dollar and take over the debt. Of course they are bastards and torment families to get their money back, but that initial debt purchase is what I'm talking about. If a family is $5,000 behind in rent, the state pays the landlord $2,500 and cleans the slate, letting that family start over. The state could put a lien on that family's tax returns to recoup some of that $2,500, and maybe give a tax break to the landlord for cooperating. Richard Moore has a similar idea, but it would cost a lot more than mine:

“You say to the landlords, ‘We’re going to pay your debt,’” Moore said. “You may even two-tier it to say to the really large landlords, ‘We’re going to pay your debt, but we’re going to pay you 90 cents on the dollar on the accumulated rent that you have.’ Though it may not be politically saleable, you can’t get blood out of a rock. The money is not there. So you say, ‘I’m going to let you skip the collection cost, I’m going to give you the benefit of the lump sum payment because I’ve saved you the collection cost.’”

And in exchange?

“We’d want them to offer discount rent for the next year or year and a half,” Moore said. “You keep your tenants in. We’re paying you for the past. But we want you to offer discounts for all the same reasons that society paid for this this cheaper cost of capital. And maybe that would us to the other side of this and get everyone back up on their feet.”

90% is (way) too much. I'm sure many landlords would vehemently disagree with me, and a lot of bankers too (like Richard), but this is taxpayer money not private investors. If we're going to do something like this, we need the biggest bang for the buck, and 90% ain't gettin' it.

Just to give you an idea of what the private sector pays for debt:

The Commission acquired and analyzed an unprecedented amount of data from the studied debt buyers, which submitted data on more than 5,000 portfolios, containing nearly 90 million consumer accounts, purchased during the three-year study period. These accounts had a face value of $143 billion, and the debt buyers spent nearly $6.5 billion to acquire them. Most portfolios for which debt buyers submitted data were credit card debt, with such debt accounting for 62% of all portfolios and 71% of the total amount that the buyers spent to acquire debts. In addition to these data, the debt buyers provided copies of many purchase and sale agreements between themselves and sellers of debts. The debt buyers also submitted narrative responses to questions concerning their companies and their practices, as well as the debt buying industry.

Analysis of the prices debt buyers paid for debt purchased in more than 3,400 portfolios showed that the average price was 4.0 cents per dollar of debt face value. Older debt sold for a significantly lower price than newer debt. The price of debt older than 15 years was virtually zero. Buyers paid similar prices for debt purchased from original creditors and resellers, once the analysis controlled for other observable characteristics of the debt, such as their age and type.

Granted, most of the debt involved in these transactions is credit card debt, but if banks can "write off" their losses and sell that debt for 4c on the dollar, 50c per dollar of rental debt for landlords is good money.