President Biden on Friday urged states to pump out $46.5 billion in federal rental relief to prevent a wave of evictions as Democrats on Capitol Hill struggle to find enough votes to extend a national moratorium amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
Biden has not attempted a legally creative new federal moratorium — as President Donald Trump did in August 2020 to get around congressional gridlock. The Supreme Court recently said the Trump-era CDC moratorium must expire July 31.
In an attempt at damage control, the White House has emphasized that funds are available for renters at risk of eviction.
“As the eviction moratorium deadline approaches tomorrow, I call on all state and local governments to take all possible steps to immediately disburse these funds given the imminent ending of the CDC eviction moratorium,” Biden said in a statement.
“State and local governments began receiving Emergency Rental Assistance funding in February and were eligible for an additional $21.5 billion passed in the American Rescue Plan. Five months later, with localities across the nation showing that they can deliver funds effectively – there can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s press office circulated Biden’s statement as Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders huddled to discuss how to extend the moratorium.
It’s possible the House and Senate will attempt to convene weekend votes to extend the eviction protections.
Pelosi blamed Republicans for the impasse, despite the fact that Democrats are divided on an extension.
“We are proud and pleased that, overwhelmingly, House Democrats have understood the hardship caused by rental evictions and support extending the eviction moratorium to October 18, 2021. Unfortunately, not a single Republican would support this measure,” Pelosi said in a statement, glossing over Democratic divisions.
Pelosi also passed the buck to states, saying, “Even though Congress had allocated and the federal government has transferred $46.5 billion for renters and landlords to the governors and local officials, they have not distributed it.”
About 2.3 million homeowners and about 6.2 million renters — or one in seven, as of late March — aren’t on top of payments, according to a recent Harvard University housing report.
Evictions could lower soaring real estate prices and allow owners to get rid of non-rent-paying tenants. But it’s also is a liability for Biden, who regularly emphasizes the effects of the pandemic on lower-income people, especially on mothers unable to work due to schools closing.
A patchwork of state and local policies will replace the federal evictions ban.
In his statement, Biden said, “State and local governments should also be aware that there is no legal barrier to moratorium at the state and local level.”
Although the CDC’s national moratorium was legally dubious, Trump said he had to act due to partisan gridlock. At the same time, Trump also unilaterally resurrected a federal unemployment supplement and paused federal student loan payments and interest.
The White House said this week that Biden will keep in effect various other eviction protections.
Biden “has asked the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs to extend their respective eviction moratoria through the end of September, which will provide continued protection for households living in federally-insured, single-family properties,” the White House said.