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The Biden administration pulled a 180 Thursday morning and called on Congress to extend the expiring federal eviction moratorium.
The moratorium is currently slated to expire on July 31. When announcing the July extension in late June, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky stated that this would be the final extension, and the White House has maintained that posture over the past month.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the shift in a statement Thursday morning, citing "the recent spread of the Delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations."
"President 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," she wrote. "Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available. In June, when CDC extended the eviction moratorium until July 31, the Supreme Court’s ruling stated that 'clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.'"
"In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the President calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay. In addition, he has asked the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs to extend their respective eviction moratoria through the end of September, which will provide continued protection for households living in federally-insured, single-family properties," Psaki continued. "The President has also asked these and other departments to do everything in their power so that owners and operators of federally-assisted and financed rental housing seek Emergency Rental Assistance to make themselves whole while keeping families in secure and safe housing — before moving toward eviction."
The White House's top spokeswoman additionally urged all states and local municipalities that received aid through the pandemic Emergency Rental Assistance programs to "urgently accelerate their efforts to disburse these funds."
"With some cities and states demonstrating their ability to release these funds efficiently to tenants and landlords in need, there can be no excuse for any state or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet this critical need of so many Americans," Psaki closed.
The federal government set aside more than $46 billion for the ERA programs, yet only $1.5 billion of that had been disbursed to at-risk renters and landlords through July. Still, roughly half of those funds will be available to grantees through the fall of 2022, with the remaining half expiring in the fall of 2025, and the White House has spent the past month attempting to help states and local governments streamline efforts to deliver aid to intended recipients.
White House officials previously told the Washington Examiner those steps are developing a "new national infrastructure" to prevent evictions once the federal moratorium actually expires.
Members of both parties criticized the administration's stewardship of the ERA program in recent weeks.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee who introduced legislation in June seeking to streamline the payment of ERA funds to at-risk renters, expressed major frustration to the Washington Examiner over delays in disbursing ERA funds.
"The Biden Administration is failing to provide Emergency Rental Assistance to Americans in need. With millions of families worried they’ll lose their homes in 10 days, we need to act now to correct this gross mismanagement," McHenry said. "Republicans have a solution, the Renter Protection Act, to get this aid out the door. But instead of working with us, Democrats are more focused on their progressive agenda — leaving renters twisting in the wind."
Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla also attacked the administration in early July for failing to allow grantees to use "federal emergency rental assistance to pay down housing-related debt."
According to ERA guidance, at least 90% of awarded funds must be used for "direct financial assistance, including rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs, utilities and home energy costs arrears, and other expenses related to housing," while the remaining 10% or less can be used for "housing stability services, including case management and other services intended to keep households stably housed."
"This practice of renters incurring debt to avoid eviction is exactly the type of housing insecurity Congress intended to curb with the funds appropriated for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program," the senators wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. "To assist these households, we request that you update the Emergency Rental Assistance Program guidance to allow households to receive federal rental assistance for rent paid for with credit cards or other loans."
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Original Author: Christian Datoc