The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday extended the national ban on evictions for a month to help millions of tenants who could not pay rents during the coronavirus pandemic, but said this is the last time he plans to do so.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended the moratorium on evictions from June 30 to July 31. The CDC said, “It is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”
A Biden administration official said the last month would be used for a “all hands on deck” multi-agency campaign to prevent a wave of evictions. One of the reasons the moratorium was launched was to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by people going out into the streets and shelters.
At the end of March, 6.4 million U.S. households had rent backed, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of June 7, approximately 3.2 million people in the United States reported being evicted in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Dust Survey.
The news caused a sense of relief for tenants who were about to be evicted and whose only lifeline was the CDC moratorium.
Among them was Cristina Livingston, a 55-year-old mother and two children from Bay Harbor Islands, Florida, who lost her job as an administrative assistant during the pandemic. She was unable to obtain federal rental assistance to pay more than $ 14,000 in rent because her landlord refused to take it.
“Ah, great. I just ask for a little more time. I just need time to get out of here in a dignified way, ”said Livingston, who said his biggest fear was being evicted without warning before finding a new job.
“It’s been a devastating experience,” he said. “I have never been in this situation. He’s killing me because I’m afraid someone will come to get me out of here. I have nowhere to go.
Ronald Leonard, a 68-year-old retired heavy equipment operator from Daytona Beach, Florida, was facing the eviction of his one-bedroom apartment. Its landlord also refuses to receive federal aid to cover $ 5,000 rent later.
“I don’t care about July anymore. I feel so much better, “said Leonard, who is still afraid of being forced to live on the streets once the moratorium expires.” It’s heartbreaking. It won’t be good. [at] all. I’m not healthy anymore. There is no way to live on the street.
The announcement of the extension on Thursday was accompanied by a wave of administrative activities. The U.S. Treasury Department issued new guidelines encouraging states and local governments to streamline the distribution of nearly $ 47 billion in emergency rental assistance funding available. And Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta issued an open letter to state courts across the country encouraging them to look for a number of alternatives that would protect both tenants and landlords.
Gupta’s letter states that “eviction proceedings are expected to overwhelm courts across the country,” unless additional action is taken.
The White House had acknowledged Wednesday that protection against the emergency pandemic, which had been expanded earlier, should end at some point. The trick is to devise the right type of descent to make the transition without major social upheavals.
Gupta’s letter to state courts encourages them to do everything possible to prevent or delay evictions.
“Home loss can have catastrophic psychological and economic effects,” he says. “The entire legal community, including the Department of Justice, the Bar Association and the judiciary, has an obligation to do what it can to ensure that each and every one has meaningful and equal access to justice before ‘face these consequences’.
This includes giving tenants as much time as possible and making sure both tenants and landlords are aware of any emergency aid funds that are available.
Gupta’s letter refers to steps taken by state courts in Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania and directs state courts to an online assessment tool designed by the National Center for State Courts to help jurisdictions determine the most suitable model.
This week, dozens of members of Congress wrote to Biden and Walensky calling for the moratorium to not only be extended, but also strengthened in some way.
The letter, led by Democratic Representatives Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Jimmy Gomez of California and Cori Bush of Missouri, called for an unspecified extension to allow emergency rental assistance included in the American Rescue Plan to reach tenants.
Stopping care too abruptly, they said, would disproportionately harm some of the minority communities so affected by the coronavirus, which has killed more than 600,000 people in the United States. Many housing advocates also echoed the call for the moratorium protections to be made automatic, without the need for special measures by the tenant to obtain their protections.
“The impact of the federal moratorium cannot be underestimated and the need to strengthen and extend it is an urgent issue of health, racial and economic justice,” the letter said.
Diane Yentel, president of the National Coalition for Low-Income Housing, described the extension of the eviction ban as “correct, morally, fiscally, politically and as a measure of continued public health.”
But the owners, who have opposed the moratorium and challenged it in court, were against any extension. They have argued that the focus should be on accelerating the distribution of rental assistance.
Others welcomed the extension of the moratorium, but said the Biden administration should think of more long-term solutions, including expanding the federal government’s housing bond program for low-income tenants. income. Even before the pandemic, there were 24 million people who would have benefited from the program but could not get help, many of these people of color.
“For now, extending the eviction moratorium will protect the millions who have rent, but many of these tenants faced a similar deadline just a few months ago and will face that deadline again next month.” said Alicia Mazzara, research analyst Center for Budgetary and Political Priorities, according to reporters. “They need a long-term solution, not the other way around. Politicians should take advantage of this moment to adopt a more lasting solution. “