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20% of U.S. renters didn't pay the rent on time this month

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A growing number of Americans are having trouble making the rent amid a historic surge in unemployment around the U.S. Nearly 20% of renters didn't pay the monthly rent by May 6, up from 18% a year ago, according to data from the National Multifamily Housing Council.

That increase amounts to some 300,000 renters failing to make even a partial payment. More positively, especially for landlords, the latest numbers show an improvement from April, when nearly a third of Americans failed to pay rent by the 5th day of the month.

"[F]or the second month in a row, we are seeing evidence that apartment renters who can pay rent are stepping up and doing so," Doug Bibby, NMHC president, said in a statement.

That more people were able to make rent this month may suggest that Americans are benefiting from federal stimulus payments and enhanced unemployment benefits. About 80% of that stimulus money has been sent out, the IRS announced Friday. States are also catching up to record-high filings for jobless benefits, and about three-quarters of workers who filed a claim are now receiving some cash.

"We expect May to largely mirror April, when the payment rate increased throughout the month as financial assistance worked its way to people's bank accounts," Bibby said.

However, NHMC's data leaves out a large portion of the rental market, including mom-and-pop landlords, buildings with fewer than five units and those that are government subsidized. Given those limitations and widespread calls for rent strikes, it's likely that many more renters are struggling than the numbers show.

Millions of Americans are having a hard time paying for basics, such as housing, utility bills and food, while in cities like Los Angeles more than half the population is jobless. Last month, 29 million people lost their jobs and another 5 million saw their hours cut. Nearly 4 million homeowners are not making mortgage payments.

The housing industry has called for Congress to give money to building owners, while bills in Congress and a number of state legislatures have been introduced to cancel rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the economic crisis.

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