The White House is asking Congress to act “without delay” to extend a moratorium on evictions, saying the Supreme Court has left it up to the nation’s lawmakers to extend a pandemic-era pause on kicking renters out of their homes.
The Centers for Disease Control last year issued a moratorium on evictions to fight the spread of Covid-19, a lifeline to many who were struggling to pay rent at a time of surging unemployment. The agency subsequently extended the moratorium through the end of July, but the Supreme Court in June ruled that only Congress had the legal authority to extend it further.
With the moratorium 2 days from expiring, the White House on Thursday called on Congress to pass an extension. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden favors an extension but believes the Supreme Court has left the decision in Congress’ hands. “In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the President calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay,” Psaki said. She added that the eviction ban is “a critical backstop to prevent hard-pressed renters and their families who lost jobs or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic from being evicted for nonpayment of rent.”
According to the most recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 11 million Americans are behind on rent. If Congress fails to act, the country will likely face an unprecedented amount of evictions in a short period of time.
“These rollbacks of lifesaving protections are premature and will lead to the worst eviction crisis in U.S. history,” said Joboa Lake, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. “We know that keeping people housed and preventing evictions reduces the spread of COVID-19, and ending the moratorium will lead to more spread and ultimately more deaths.”
Lake also noted that evictions will likely disproportionately affect people of color and people with disabilities.
Some Democrats in Congress have signaled interest in extending the moratorium, but they will need Republican support to get it passed. A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi told Rolling Stone that the House Speaker “agrees with President Biden that the moratorium must be extended,” adding, “We are exploring all options to do so.”
Also looming is the September 4th expiration of the $300 per week federal pandemic unemployment assistance payments. Some Republican-led states have already cut their residents off, ending the federal pandemic assistance far ahead of the fall deadline.
Biden has also ordered other agencies — U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs — to extend their eviction deadlines through the end of September, which would apply to households living in federally-insured, single-family properties.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner said that a “short-term extension makes sense” but added that “we do have to return to the market” eventually. “In the middle of the summer, putting people out of their homes is not appropriate,” Warner said Thursday, according to Bloomberg. “But we’ve got to have a glide path as well because I’m afraid sometimes that some of our eviction relief dollars have not gotten to the right people.”
Despite $47 billion in federal aid allocated to help tenants who cannot afford rent, only $3 billion has been given to tenants and landlords as states have lacked the staff and infrastructure to disburse the funds. But Biden is urging states and localities to expedite their efforts to disburse Emergency Rental Assistance made available by Congress. “There can be no excuse for any state or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet this critical need of so many Americans,” Psaki said.