More than 60 Democratic members of Congress on Friday pleaded with leadership to pass a new eviction moratorium after the Supreme Court struck down a similar freeze ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month.
Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) and Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) led a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to “act with the urgency this moment demands and include an ambitious legislative solution to extend the eviction moratorium in a must-pass legislative vehicle.”
“Millions of people who are currently at risk for eviction, housing insecurity, or face becoming unhoused desperately look to their elected representatives to implement legislation that will put their health and safety first and save lives,” the lawmakers wrote.
In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, the letter was signed by several other Democratic lawmakers representing parts of New York City — including Grace Meng, Jamaal Bowman, Nydia Velazquez, Carolyn Maloney, Adriano Espaillat and Jerry Nadler.
“Long before the pandemic, evictions have been a systemic form of violence that disproportionately impacted [b]lack and brown communities, especially [b]lack women,” the letter said.
“Following decades of stagnant wages, skyrocketing costs of housing, health care and education, these same communities continue to bear the unequal burden of the compounding health and economic crises.”
On Aug. 3, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced a 60-day moratorium on evictions in counties with a “substantial” or “high” spread of COVID-19, which the federal agency defines as at least 50 cases per 100,000 people over the previous seven days. As of Friday night, more than 95 percent of all US counties were experiencing “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission by the CDC definition.
Walensky acted after Democrats in Congress failed to garner enough support for legislation extending a previous national eviction moratorium past July 31. The Supreme Court had ruled 5-4 in June that the freeze could remain in place through that date, but warned that renewing it past the end of July would require an act of Congress.
Shortly before Walensky announced the new moratorium, President Biden admitted that it likely would not past constitutional muster, but added that “there are several key scholars who think that it may, and it’s worth the effort.”
The president also justified the Walensky order by claim it would give state and local governments time to distribute more than $46 billion in federal aid to tenants facing eviction. However, the Treasury Department revealed earlier this week that just $5.1 billion in aid had been doled out.
The White House had argued in court that the latest CDC moratorium was more specific than a nationwide ban, as well as that the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 made the moratorium necessary as a public health emergency measure.
On Thursday night, the Supreme Court struck down the 60-day moratorium from the CDC.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s order, White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement calling on “all entities that can prevent evictions – from cities and states to local courts, landlords, Cabinet Agencies – to urgently act” to do so.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter to House Democrats Friday, Pelosi blasted the high court’s order as “arbitrary and cruel” as well as “immoral”.
However, she stopped short of promising new legislation to institute an eviction freeze, instead turning the focus to faster distribution of tenant aid funds.