The White House walked back criticism of Congress when pressed on whether lawmakers were partly to blame for problems with the distribution of billions of dollars allocated for rent assistance.
Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden tasked with overseeing the rollout of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus package, initially said Congress failed to provide the White House with "a lot of sticks and punitive measures and carrots" to ensure the efficient implementation of rent assistance federal funds. But he declined to blame lawmakers in the Democratic-majority House and Senate for the oversight.
"No, not at all. I think what they did was historic," he told reporters on Monday during a two-hour delayed briefing.
Sperling added that Congress "wisely" included provisions for local and state governments resources aimed at alleviating financial stress related to rent.
Roughly $3 billion of the $46.5 billion earmarked for federal rent assistance has been distributed to eligible landlords and renters. About $1.5 billion of that was dispersed in June before a national eviction moratorium expired on July 31.
Sperling declined to predict how many renters will be affected by the end of the eviction moratorium but repeated Biden would "kick every tire" and "double, triple, quadruple check" with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding whether there was legal authority for a targeted 30-day extension.
The Supreme Court ruled in June that congressional approval was required for the eviction moratorium to be prolonged.
On Monday, Sperling admitted the possibility that the Supreme Court may hamstring the White House's broader health policy and that it factored into in-house lawyers' decision to delegate responsibility for an eviction moratorium extension to Congress rather than antagonizing the bench by doing it through executive action.
"You always have to worry about whether you do something that could create harm. That's a factor to think about," he said.
The White House upset Democrats last week by waiting until three days before the eviction moratorium's lapse to announce it would not take unilateral action to extend it. On Monday, press secretary Jen Psaki revealed Biden asked the CDC last weekend to make sure it lacked the legal authority to continue it after Democrats, such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, blasted the president's lackadaisical approach as "ridiculous."
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Original Author: Naomi Lim