By Katie Nielsen

BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Friday is the first of the month, meaning rent is due for hundreds of thousands of people across the Bay Area.

Newly released data from UC Berkeley shows just how big of an impact COVID-19 is having on renters.

“I won’t be making that rent payment tomorrow because I don’t have it,” Merika Reagan said.

She owns City Hikes, a once-thriving dog walking and pet care business in the East Bay. As soon as the Bay Area wide shelter-in-place order was announced, her business came to a screeching halt.

“Text message after text message from clients, we don’t need walks, we’ll be home,” she told KPIX 5. “Canceling my pet sitting because my trip was canceled.”

She now only has three clients, which is barely enough income to pay some of her utilities and buy groceries. There’s nothing left over for rent.

“If no money is coming in, where am I supposed to be getting that from?” asks Merika.

It’s a similar situation for so many across the Bay Area who are also out of work. According to new numbers released from the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation, there are more than a quarter million households in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley where the ability to pay rent is impacted by COVID-19.

The numbers show the average rent eats up 82 percent of the minimum monthly unemployment benefits including $600 a month from the CARES Act.

In the South Bay, there are about 125,000 households impacted and based on the same formula, rent would take about 93% of the benefits.

“It’s for a lot of people impossible. Just barely surviving. Just everyone in survival mode,” Reagan said.

She says at this point, something has to be done.

“There’s power in numbers. Don’t get scared. Don’t get angry. Organize,” she says.

Tenants rights advocates are calling for a National Rent Strike Friday, asking people not to pay their rent in hopes political leaders will feel pressured to offer some kind of relief plan.

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