Millions of Americans are at risk of eviction, thanks to the eviction moratorium that expired over the weekend while Congress and the White House sparred over who was responsible for extending it. President Joe Biden asked landlords to pause evictions for the next 30 days on Monday as the administration scrambles to find a way to implement a new eviction moratorium.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Monday that the CDC so far has been “unable to find legal authority” to create a new moratorium, citing a Supreme Court opinion authored by Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh that said congressional action would be required to do so.
“To date, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her team have been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium. Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
And during a Monday briefing, the White House’s Covid-19 relief czar, Gene Sperling, said the administration “has double, triple, quadruple checked” whether extending the moratorium unilaterally would be legally possible, ultimately concluding it was not.
The White House sent Congress into turmoil Thursday when it announced—just days before the deadline—that it would not act to extend it. Democratic leadership in the House briefly and half-heartedly tried to pass a bill extending the moratorium on Friday, blaming Republicans for not supporting the measure. But progressive Democrats, including Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have been critical of their own party and the White House for the effort’s failure. Bush has slept each night on the Capitol steps since Friday, an effort to bring attention to the millions who will be evicted without protections.
“There are evictions happening right now. Our team has heard that there have already been thousands today,” Bush said in a tweet on Sunday. “People are being forcibly removed from their homes RIGHT NOW. There are potentially millions more to come.”
Bush also tweeted that she had a conversation with Vice President Kamala Harris about the matter on Monday. “I needed her to look me in my eyes and I wanted to look in hers when I asked for help to prevent our people from being evicted,” she wrote. “Madam Vice President, let’s work together to get this done. We need a federal eviction moratorium.”
In lieu of a new moratorium, the White House announced actions it is taking, including directing all federal agencies to “reexamine whether there are any other authorities to take additional actions to stop evictions.” But in the meantime, Biden asked states to extend or create their own evictions moratoria covering the next two months.
The president also called on state and local courts to pause eviction proceedings until tenants and landlords gain access to Emergency Rental Assistance funds allocated by Congress as part of the American Rescue Plan. So far only $3 billion out of $46 billion has been disbursed, so Biden directed federal agencies to find out why funds have not been distributed and to “press the states and localities to make these distributions.”
Responding to the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the actions were “welcome,” saying, “For the good of families on the verge of eviction, my Democratic House colleagues and I are hopeful that this initiative to extend the moratorium will be successful as soon as possible.”
According to the Aspen Institute and COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, more than 15 million people across 6.5 million homes are behind on rent, and they collectively owe upwards of $20 billion to their landlords.
“The eviction moratorium ended yesterday, and this means that thousands of black families and children could lose the roof over their heads at a time when the deadly pandemic is surging once again, and their lives are in disorder due to the pandemic,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) in a statement issued Monday.
She added, “The virus is still a threat, and the moratorium must be extended, and the funds Congress allocated to assist renters and landlords must be spent.”