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CDC announces targeted eviction moratorium after days of pressure

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WASHINGTON — The CDC on Tuesday issued a new eviction moratorium for regions of the country with "substantial and high transmission" of the coronavirus, following days of finger-pointing among Democrats for allowing the nationwide ban to expire on Saturday.

If counties improve their Covid rates and do not experience substantial and high transmission for 14 consecutive days, tenants will no longer be protected by the CDC moratorium. Similarly, if Covid cases worsen in a county, renters might become protected by the CDC order. County transmission rates can be found on the CDC website. The new order will expire Oct. 3.

"The emergence of the delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. "This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads."

Image: Joe Biden (Susan Walsh / AP)
Image: Joe Biden (Susan Walsh / AP)

News of the extension drew praise from progressive House Democrats who had been furious that the moratorium was allowed to expire on Saturday. Led by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., several members launched a protest, sleeping on the Capitol steps for four nights, demanding that both the administration act and the House reconvene to address the issue.

“What the message here today is clear, that every day people can make a change and we can always demand better. And we can push ourselves to be better and that should not be taboo in our democracy,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said immediately following the Biden announcement. “This is a huge victory for working families, this is a huge victory for the vulnerable, and it is a huge victory for the power of direct action and not taking no for an answer.”

The original ban was put in place in September in an effort to keep people in their homes. The moratorium was extended multiple times, but the CDC made clear in June that a court order prohibited them from extending it beyond July 31.

Just days before the expiration, Biden called on Congress to pass an extension to the moratorium, arguing that he lacked the authority to do so unilaterally. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ultimately declined to hold a vote on an extension after it became clear she lacked enough Democratic support for it to pass, prompting some progressive lawmakers to lead protests outside the Capitol over the weekend.

The White House and Pelosi urged states to do a better job sending out emergency rental assistance funding, which was included as part of the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan. The funding is supposed to help tenants financially impacted by Covid pay for rent and utilities, but many states have struggled to set up efficient programs to get the money to people in need. Only a small fraction of the federal funds have actually been spent.

The Supreme Court in June declined to end the federal ban on evictions but in the concurrence Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that decision was made in part because the ban was expiring in July and said that any further extension would require congressional action. Gene Sperling, who is overseeing the White House's rollout of Covid emergency funds, said the ruling presented a "difficult obstacle" to the CDC and the White House.

In Tuesday's order, the CDC said that the delta variant "altered the trajectory" of the pandemic and it was therefore issuing a "narrower, more targeted" order. Biden told reporters it was unclear if the new order would pass "constitutional muster," but that it would at least give states extra time to distribute rental assistance.

Housing activists gather in front of Gov. Charlie Baker's house on Oct. 14, 2020, in Swampscott, Mass. (Michael Dwyer / AP file)
Housing activists gather in front of Gov. Charlie Baker's house on Oct. 14, 2020, in Swampscott, Mass. (Michael Dwyer / AP file)

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke to House Democrats on a conference call Tuesday morning where members pressured her to commit that the White House would extend the eviction moratorium.

Pelosi acknowledged the pain being felt by landlords who run small rental operations and who haven’t received rent checks in a year, but she encouraged Yellen and the White House to “briefly extend the moratorium to allow for the money to be distributed,” according to two people on the call who asked to remain anonymous.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chair of the Financial Services Committee, insisted that the administration has the authority to extend the moratorium.

Bush asked Yellen: “Which one will be more devastating? A court challenge that we have to fix or 7-11 million people hitting the streets?”

Yellen told the lawmakers on the call that Treasury has already distributed 40 percent of the most recent $45 billion funds for rental aid.

Pelosi has continue to say she will not have House members, who are currently in the first week of a seven-week recess, return to Washington to vote on an extension.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to say whether the Senate could vote on an extension and instead said he is “urging the administration to pursue every area that they can extend the moratorium, every area.”

Bush, who said she was heading home to her district, said there's more coming. “You know, this is the first step, but the work isn't done so we, we will continue the fight. We will morph it into ... a movement ...[to achieve] the change that's needed.”

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