As Federal Eviction Ban Ends, the White House Is Begging States to Use Emergency Funds to Help Renters
UPDATE, Aug. 27: The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent eviction moratorium Thursday night, allowing scores of landlords to start eviction proceedings against tenants who are behind on rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an unsigned opinion, six justices wrote that the CDC had exceeded its authority by imposing the eviction ban without explicit authorization from Congress. The ruling was issued over the dissent of the three liberal justices, with Associate Justice Stephen Breyer warning of a wave of new COVID-19 infections.
Anticipating the reversal, the Biden administration and the Department of Treasury on Wednesday announced a number of steps designed to facilitate the process for applying for and receiving aid from Emergency Rental Assistance programs, including a broader policy for self-documenting eligibility for assistance, new policies for providing estimated bulk payments to landlords and guidelines for state and local governments to coordinate with non-profit organizations for the distribution of funds.
If you need help paying your rent, read Money's state-by-state guide to Emergency Rental Assistance here.
UPDATE, Aug. 3: Millions of renters across the nation are getting a reprieve from the risk of losing their homes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new moratorium on evictions of people who can’t pay rent.
The new ban applies to areas where there are rapidly increasing levels of COVID-19 infections caused by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus. The new order extends the eviction moratorium until Oct. 3.
“This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a Tuesday news release. “It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”
The CDC order, announced amid continued pushback from Democrats urging the White House to find a way to protect renters from the risk of eviction, covers about 80% of U.S. counties currently dealing with “substantial” and “high” levels of COVID-19 infection. It’s expected to apply to about 90% of the U.S. population.
The ban can be extended to areas not initially covered by the order if they experience a substantial increase in COVID-19 infections. On the other hand, counties that are not seeing substantial or high numbers of infections for a period of 14 days will no longer be covered by the new order.
In a press conference, President Joe Biden noted that there may be a legal challenge to the new moratorium, but that renters will at least get “additional time” to apply for and receive emergency assistance while the policy makes its way through the courts.
ORIGINAL STORY: After a confusing couple of days that saw several Democrats openly criticize the Biden administration, the federal eviction moratorium intended to protect homeowners affected by the pandemic officially expired on Saturday.
The president's new approach? To get funds into people's pockets ASAP.
The situation is still rapidly developing, but it appears the White House has now turned its attention to promoting money earmarked for Emergency Rental Assistance, or ERA, and provided to local governments through the American Rescue Plan.
"I call on all state and local governments to take all possible steps to immediately disburse these funds," President Joe Biden said in a news release. "There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic."
In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Biden asked individual states and local governments to issue their own eviction bans, while at the same time urging the use of available funds from the ERA and other funding programs to help ease the strain on renters who are at risk. One in three renters currently behind on their payments live in states that have established their own eviction moratoriums.
"No one in America should be evicted when federal funds are available, in the hands of state and local government, to pay back rent due," press secretary Jen Psaki said in a Monday statement.
Earlier this year, the federal government set aside about $46 billion in emergency funds to help renters get up to date on their monthly payments and help make property owners whole. But to date, only about $3 billion of that aid has been distributed, which Biden said is crucial "to ensure we prevent every eviction we can."
The housing situation in Washington all but imploded last week ahead of the planned expiration of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on evicting renters who were affected by the pandemic. The ban rolled out in March 2020, making it so landlords were not able to begin evictions for non-payment of rent while the ban was in place and helping the 16% of adult renters behind on payments.
It was extended several times, but the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled the ban unconstitutional on the grounds that the CDC didn’t have the authority to implement it. The ruling does not apply to state moratoriums.
As the expiration date approached, the White House said President Joe Biden "would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability." House Democrats introduced a bill that would allow the moratorium to be extended. However, the bill failed to progress as time ran out and Congress began its August recess, drawing disapproval from politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
A handful of agencies stepped in to extend their ban on foreclosure-related evictions from federally insured properties until Sept. 30, but their scope was limited.
Enter the renewed push to get people to take advantage of the available funds. Biden specifically asked Monday for every landlord "to hold off on evictions for the next 30 days and instead seek out Emergency Rental Assistance."
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a locator tool to help find all available assistance programs.
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