Concerns about rent, utilities grow with increased COVID-19 closures


In Bowling Green, utilities will not be shut off for anyone who is impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Haley Weis and Haley Weis

BGSU students are currently facing many unknowns. Early last week, the university made the decision to halt face-to-face classes for two weeks after spring break. This decision was extended on Friday — moving the university to online courses for the remainder of the semester.

As the uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has made decisions to close bars and restaurants — leaving many students unemployed.

According to the university’s website, BGSU employs more than 3,500 students on campus. Due to the coronavirus, many of these on-campus workplaces have been forced to close and lay off their employees.

For financially independent students, lack of employment has become a looming issue. Specifically, off-campus students who are paying their own rent, utilities and other bills.

Other cities around the country have lessened the financial burden for their residents by pausing utility shut-offs and rent collection. The idea behind this movement is to allow residents to be late on utilities if they are not financially sound without accruing late payment fees.

As of late Monday, the city of Bowling Green has decided to follow in a similar suit. 

Utilities will not be shut off for anyone who is impacted by the current crisis. Late payment fees will be held off until April 13 and shut-offs for non-payments will be suspended until mid-April.

Samantha Ernst, BGSU senior communication major, said she was worried about these late fees that may begin to pile up after losing three jobs less than a week ago.

“We had little to no warning that our jobs would be lost,” Ernst said.

Rent and utilities are a top concern for many students struggling to find financial supplements for their lost jobs.

“We aren’t just numbers on a page, we’re people who are desperate and need help.” - BGSU junior Danielle Bender

Groceries, loan payments and gas costs also seem to be adding up for students. The city’s utility commodity can have the potential to help students for the time being, but rent subsidies are still up in the air.

Danielle Bender, BGSU junior English education major, said it will be up to the landlords to shed some forgiveness to their student renters during these trying times.

“We are already being crushed under thousands of dollars of tuition bills and loan debt. Without income there is literally no way for us to pay rent. Should we take out another loan? Ask our families for money? My family can’t handle another $400 a month when my dad doesn’t even know if he’ll have a job in a week either,” Bender said. “Landlords and city council should realize that it may very well come down to whether they are willing to work with their student renters, or whether they want to evict hundreds of students from their places of residence. I would like the human equation to be considered; we aren’t just numbers on a page, we’re people who are desperate and need help.”

What landlords in Bowling Green will choose to do is still unknown. Steve Green from Mecca said right now it is too soon to know the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

“We’ll know more in 30 days,” he said.

What is known, however, is that students are worried. Worried for their financial situation, possible eviction status and the unknown of what is to come for themselves.

“I hope that landlords realize their moral obligations to their renters and think about the impact their choices will have on actual, human lives during this global emergency,” Bender said. 

The city is urging residents to utilize mailing in their bills or signing up for automatic bill payments to reduce face-to-face interactions at municipal buildings.