The Hustle

Results of our survey on COVID-19 and rents

More than 8 percent of our respondents said they could miss a payment due to the pandemic.
July 16, 2020

Billionaires like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and even Kanye West took to Twitter yesterday offering to double your money in Bitcoin if you zapped them some funds. 

Only problem: It was a hack — and a lame one at that.

After hacking into those accounts and more, the best the pranksters could come up with was a variation on that “You can get a free T-shirt from The Gap” scam your grandpa forwards you every month.

The Big Idea

Survey results: Will you miss a rent payment due to COVID-19?

Yesterday, we asked you if you anticipate missing a rent or mortgage payment in the next 3 months due to the economic fallout of COVID-19. ~2.5k of you answered our survey.

The Hustle’s readership skews higher-income than the median American household. A few stats on our respondents:

  • Average annual income = $113k (nat. avg. = $63k)
  • 69% live in a house; 31% live in an apartment/condo
  • 64% pay a mortgage; 36% pay rent
  • Average monthly rent/mortgage = $1,844 (nat. avg. = $1,465)
  • ~12% are currently unemployed (nat. avg. = 47%)

Caveats aside, let’s take a look at a few findings.

First off, 8.3% of all respondents said they anticipate missing a rent payment in the next 3 months. 

To put this figure in context: An apples-to-apples comparison is hard to come by, but one recent survey found 32% of US households had trouble making their housing payments for July. Renters struggled more than homeowners.

More from our findings: 

A recent Pew poll found that lower-income Americans (making less than $25k/yr) are facing more food insecurity, and COVID-19-related feelings of depression and hopelessness, than Americans making $100k+/yr. Lower income Americans have also been hit harder by job losses.

Our results mirror that theme: Unemployed and lower-income respondents are up to 5x as likely to say they’ll miss a payment in the next 3 months.

With the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits set to expire this month, these tensions will likely get worse.

Which industries are feeling the squeeze

Readers who work in fields that have seen fewer widespread layoffs (engineering, banking, management consulting) were far less likely to anticipate missing a rent check. 

Workers in harder-hit sectors like hospitality and events don’t have the same optimism, especially with businesses shutting back down in some areas:

  • A fitness trainer in Irvine, California told us: “With gyms closing yet again in my county and the relief ending in a few weeks I will be totally screwed… At this point in time the unemployment plus the $600 is more than I can make at work without clients.”
  • A hair stylist in LA said: “Since reopening a few weeks ago here in Los Angeles, my freelance biz was going well so I have been renting a chair at a new shop, but now salons and barbers are closing again, and I cannot afford to pay rent where I live and where I work.”

If you need help

Many cities and states have limited landlords’ ability to remove tenants for late payments. The National Low Income Housing Association compiled a list of rental-assistance programs that are available around the country.


Can Google searches predict a pandemic?

If you catch yourself typing “my head hurts” into Google, give yourself a little applause: You’re doing a public health service

One Harvard team created an algorithm that combines Twitter posts, Google searches, and location data to predict flare-ups with 14+ days notice. 

Another model from University College London centers on people’s loss of smell, one of the most distinctive COVID-19 symptoms. It watches for a jump in search phrases like “I can’t smell” and “lost my sense of smell.”

Wake up and smell the roses 

So how good are these things at predicting disease? The initial evidence seems promising. “I can’t smell” searches correlated strongly with the peak of infection in Spain, Brazil, Italy, and the UK. 

We also already use disease-monitoring systems like HealthMap and ProMED, which scrape the web for a jump in certain keywords to find new diseases.

ProMED first got wind of COVID-19 at the end of December after an uptick in words like “SARS,” “shortness of breath,” and “diarrhea” in social media posts in China.

A Google flu flop? 

In 2008, Google researchers built Google Flu Trends, which analyzed the use of 45 search terms to predict flu outbreaks. News outlets dubbed it a failure when Google Flu Trends missed significant case peaks over several years. 

But as Alexis Madrigal pointed out, Google Flu Trends wasn’t such a disaster. When you combined Google data with the CDC’s own monitoring system, the combo was state-of-the-art.


📱 Essential quarantine hardware, or gadget gift of your nightmares? Zoom is getting into consumer-focused gizmos: Would you buy an oversized $599 tablet, armed with 8 microphones and 3 cameras, to kick ass on conference calls?

🔬  The future is filled with llamas. New research has found that an ancient genetic mutation in llamas might contain antibodies that stop Covid-19 in humans. 

👻  The next Shake Shack might be BurgerFi. The eco-conscious burger chain is worth about $100m. BurgerFi helped to popularize the Beyond Burger in 2017, and the company was using ghost kitchens before it was cool.

🐛  We can’t get enough of this GoPro for beetles. Researchers at the University of Washington are building tiny cameras and strapping them onto insects to study their movements. 

🍿 Netflix unveiled a list of its most popular original blockbusters. Behold, the top 10:


Meet Flippy, the AI assistant chef cooking up food at MLB stadiums for $3/hour

Miso Robotics SeedInvest is still open — invest here. 

You ordered your burger medium-rare with mustard and it came out burnt with ketchup. Ugh. 

We call that the quick-service quandary — when the food comes fast, but it’s also unreliable.  

That’s all changing soon though, thanks to a new robot manning the grill at places like Dodgers Stadium and Caliburger: Miso Robotics’ own Flippy, who cooks every burger it touches to absolute perfection like some kind of chrome-plated Guy Fieri. 

Innovate, automate, and elevate the commercial kitchen

Thanks to thermal vision (along with 12 different pending patents), this AI assistant chef is helping to address the challenges facing quick-service restaurants and cloud kitchens:

The cooking chops of this skillful little chef are paying off for his creators, too — Miso Robotics is now in prime position to be one of the main players in automating the up-and-coming cloud kitchen market

So, here’s your opportunity: Get in on their SeedInvest fundraising round while it’s still open (and before Flippy starts making the rounds on Kimmel), and see where this investment takes you. 

Hey, the sky’s the limit. 

Invest here →
Troubled Water

The big business of owning an international bridge

The Ambassador Bridge might be one of the most valuable pieces of real estate you’ve never heard of. 

The bridge, which links Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario in Canada, is the only privately owned border crossing in North America. 

Its owner, the trucking magnate Manuel Moroun, died this week — but not before making $60m+ off of tolls alone.

Everyone wants a piece of it

The bridge opened to the public during the 1920s, after an excess of freighters and boats in the river below it led to maritime traffic jams. 

A financier named Joseph Bower supplied most of the money for the project, and the bridge became his personal property.

Ever since, titans of business have fought for control of the bridge: Henry Ford was an early financial backer. At one point, in the ‘70s, Warren Buffet owned a 25% stake. 

Only in 1979, with the help of a $30B loan, did Moroun wrest control from the Bower family. 

It’s no wonder they all wanted in: At least 40% of all trucking shipments into the US from Canada roll over the Ambassador Bridge.

Enjoy those tolls while you can 

With Moroun’s passing, his son Matthew will take over the family bridge biz. But the Ambassador’s preeminence in North American trade might be fading. 

Since 2018, Canada — fed up with what it perceived as poor upkeep on the Ambassador — has been building a rival bridge across the Detroit River.

And this time, there won’t be a private owner: The Canadian government is bankrolling it. 

The Big Number

Colorado recently wrapped up its first month of legalized sports gambling — can you guess which athletic pastime was the most popular bet?

Believe it or not, it was ping pong. Table tennis took in about $6.6m of the $25.6m+ in total betting. (h/t Numlock News)

Ain’t life a gas?

Today we talk cow farts, but the New England Patriots ain’t smelling any rosier

Settle in, kids, and let’s talk about outrage.


Burger King brought the funk when it announced it would start feeding its beef herds lemongrass, which BK says will cut cow farts by 30%. 

Methane emissions from leaky pipelines and, yes, bovine flatus jumped 9% in the last decade, which could warm the planet ~37 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

The announcement ripped across Twitter, which got us to wondering: Would the move prove winner or Whopper? 

We checked with a cattle rancher to see if the idea had any gas.

She pointed out that the carbon footprint of shipping lemongrass — a tropical plant — might counterbalance any benefit from fending off farts. 

We have never been so entranced by an animal’s gas emissions.

Blame… Tom Brady?

The Paper Store, a Massachusetts-based gift shop chain, filed for bankruptcy

COVID is the main culprit for the company’s financial shortcomings, but company leadership also blames the New England Patriots for fumbling in the NFL playoffs, which sacked its sports-themed sales.

As Dave Benoit of The Wall Street Journal put it: “Team makes 3 straight Super Bowls and then loses a wild card and your business falls apart?”

Talk about fair-weather fans. 

Hustle Horoscope

A super-serious look at what’s coming your way, if stars align.

Comic-con is going virtual next week, replacing the typical San Diego spectacle that draws ~135k fans. 

Prediction: Less cosplay. What’s the point of dressing up as Spock if no one can see your duds in real life?


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