(CNN) - The economic impact of the pandemic continues to take a heartbreaking toll on millions of Americans, and it could get much worse in the coming weeks.
Coronavirus-related unemployment benefits are set to expire soon.
Perhaps even worse for some, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order halting evictions is also going to expire.
According to Stout, a global investment bank and advisory firm, more than 14 million U.S. households are currently at risk of eviction, with 4.9 million of them likely get evicted in January after the CDC eviction moratorium expires on Dec. 31.
Those changes are coming in short order if Congress doesn’t act, setting up a perfect storm threatening to turn hardship into hopelessness.
Since his wife died in 2012, John Ayers counts his blessings, like Bella and Bear, and his job as an insurance agent.
“I was making a salary,” he said, enough to pay $2,000 rent on a house in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and because of his severe arthritis and diabetes, an Uber driver known as Fast Ice to get around.
A few months after the pandemic broke, Ayers lost his job, exhausted his savings and was slapped with an eviction notice.
“I need help. That’s the first time I’ve said it. I need help because I’m about to be homeless,” he said.
Like millions of Americans, Ayers could be homeless on New Year’s Day. While he can’t afford his medications, he’s not worried about himself.
“It’s the thought of being out there with a dog. Because I’m not putting my dog down.” Ayers said.
County Judge Robert Lee says evictions in Broward County could triple in the first three months of 2021, from 5,000 to 15,000. Some landlords “are almost in the same desperate position as the tenant is,” he said.
To meet skyrocketing demand, the court has moved judges who try crimes, medical and insurance claims to evictions.
Pro bono attorneys are going where the need is great – food lines -- to help tenants fight to stay in their homes.
But the call volume at one homeless shelter in Miami-Dade County increased from 800 calls a month on average To 1,200 last month. And the homeless population is already growing.
“The fear of that turning into thousands upon thousands drives me (emotional) completely crazy. I cannot almost have the conversation without breaking down over what it means,” said Ron Book, Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman.
As for Ayers, he’s looking for a job and counting a new blessing. Fast Ice now drives him free of charge.