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Rush is on to Extend Eviction Moratorium While Landlords and Republicans Oppose It

August 2, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
People from a coalition of housing justice groups hold signs protesting evictions during a news conference outside the Statehouse, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Monday that it is trying to find a way to extend the federal eviction moratorium that expired Saturday.

As many as 11 million Americans are in danger of losing their homes within weeks after expiration of the ban on evictions ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Biden says the main barrier to an extension is the Supreme Court’s June 29 ruling that said the eviction moratorium could not last beyond the end of July without violating the rights of landlords.

The Court also said any extensions would require congressional approval.

Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insist the president has authority to extend the moratorium by executive order, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling. They blame Republicans for the inability of Congress to extend it.

Pelosi and other House leaders said in a statement Sunday evening that it is a “moral imperative” to prevent widespread evictions.

Biden is pinning his hopes for assisting renters and landlords on the $46.5 billion approved by Congress in March for emergency rental assistance. It is being distributed by states and local governments but has been slow to reach the tenants it is supposed to help.

Biden recommended that states “take all possible steps to immediately disburse these funds.”

Meanwhile, entire families are preparing for homelessness after their breadwinners lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Landlords argue that if the moratorium continues, they could be forced into bankruptcy, meaning their tenants would lose their homes anyway. At the least, they say they will lack the rent money they need to keep their properties in good repair.

Some Democrats in Congress, such as members of the Congressional Black Caucus, say the highest priority is preventing the desperation that will accompany widespread evictions.

“On Thursday, the president asked Congress to pass an extension of the eviction moratorium but due to the obstructionism by House Republicans, we will not be able to extend the moratorium,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.

A resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in recent weeks because of the delta variant is heightening the risk to vulnerable renters, she said.

“With billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance that Congress provided still not distributed to renters and landlords, an extension of the moratorium until the end of the year would have given support and reprieve to families struggling to make ends meet and teetering on the brink of homelessness,” Beatty said in a statement.

About a third of predominantly Democratic states are not waiting for the federal government to extend relief to renters. They are passing their own legislation.

One of them is New York, where lawmakers approved the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act. It prevents most eviction cases from being adjudicated in the courts at least through Aug. 31.

The law is hotly contested by landlords, who argued before the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals last week that the pandemic is largely over, meaning there no longer is a need for an eviction moratorium. 

“As a result [of the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act], the courthouse door has been barred to New York’s landlords since March 2020, denying them any meaningful opportunity to be heard, and causing them irreparable harm,” the landlords argue in their lawsuit.

The court’s ruling is pending.

Like other states, New York qualifies for federal rent relief but distribution of the money has been slow. Of the $2 billion available for renters and landlords in New York, about $1 million has been distributed by this week.

While the disagreements continue, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., is sleeping on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to protest the fact Congress adjourned last week without extending the eviction moratorium.

“This is unconscionable,” Bush said in a television interview Monday. “It’s inhumane.”

Her all-night, all-day protest is gaining supporters joining her on the Capitol steps.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said mass evictions now as COVID-19 resurges and fall approaches would be “a death sentence” for persons made homeless.

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