Biden was like the rest of us: He thought life was going back to normal until the Delta variant hit

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Joe Biden
President Joe Biden. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • Biden said this was going to be a "summer of joy" as most Americans got vaccinated.

  • But only about half the country was vaccinated when the Delta variant brought back fears of lockdown and recession.

  • The new eviction moratorium is one example of a scramble to keep pandemic aid in place when Biden expected it would end.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

It was supposed to be the "summer of joy." At least, that's what the White House said in June, when it touted President Joe Biden's "wartime effort to defeat COVID-19."

The administration was getting more shots in arms, cases were decreasing, and the economy's recovery looked like a boom.

Now, however, the "war has changed," according to an internal CDC document. The highly contagious Delta variant has shaken the economy as it has spread across the country. Now, the rise of the Delta variant is challenging widespread office reopening and the safe eviction of nearly 7.4 million renters who are at risk of losing their homes. Both were planned during the reprieve in between reopening, vaccination, and the rise of the variant - and now Biden, just like the rest of us, is seeing Delta wreak havoc on his thinking.

Biden extended the eviction moratorium for the 'final' time in June - until this week

Take, for example, the eviction moratorium. In place for more than a year, it halted landlords from evicting Americans who were behind on the rent during the pandemic, and expired on July 31. When it was last extended in June, the White House made explicit that this would be the "final" extension.

While the Biden administration has since somewhat backtracked, and created a new pause on evicting renters unable to pay, it's still more limited than the prior order. It'll last just 60 days, and targets areas with above-normal levels of infections.

Biden himself has expressed that the extended measure may not even be constitutional.

"The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it's not likely to pass constitutional muster," he said in remarks on Tuesday, adding, "But there are several key scholars who think that it may and it's worth the effort."

Indeed, The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reports that, after Biden heard from White House legal advisers that an extension wouldn't be possible, he sought out another perspective. Biden reportedly directed Ron Klain, his chief of staff, to get insights from Laurence Tribe, a prominent legal scholar and Harvard law professor emeritus who Biden has sought advice from for years, and Tribe backed the idea of creating a different moratorium altogether.

Biden seems to be letting unemployment benefits expire in September, or even earlier

Federal unemployment benefits are set to end in September. Over 20 million Americans will be impacted, according to an analysis from the left-leaning People's Policy Project, and 10 million will lose benefits completely, because they're on federal programs that expanded both eligibility and how long jobless Americans could receive benefits.

Some experts have raised concerns that September is too early for those benefits to conclude, especially with the rise of the Delta variant. But right now, DC is not doing much. Biden had previously said it "makes sense" for those benefits to expire in September.

That comes after 26 states moved to end their participation in federal unemployment benefits early, which White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said they have "every right to do." Pulling the plug on benefits was meant to get workers back, according to the governors in those states. But the Delta variant has left many jobless Americans adrift without benefits - and they're not flocking back to the workplace.

Instead, data suggest that workers in those states are staying home due to low vaccine rates, something that has contributed to the spread of Delta. It's another example of economic policies designed to help wean the economy off benefits throughout hot vax summer - if a variant hadn't gotten in the way.

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