Pelosi and Yellen to Discuss Rental Assistance as Eviction Crisis Looms
President Biden is expected to announce a new federal moratorium on evictions to replace the one that expired on Saturday – targeting counties with high rates of coronavirus infections, according to congressional aides and other officials familiar with the discussions.
White House aides and officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were working on details of a potential deal on Tuesday that could include a new freeze that would stay in place for up to 60 days, but officials involved in the process have warned that the situation was changing and no final decision had been taken. The CDC is expected to provide details on the ban once the plan is finalized.
The new ban would cover around 90% of tenants nationwide, according to an adviser to the Democratic leadership briefed on the proposal.
The creation of a new moratorium to deal with the recent surge in coronavirus rates is an attempt to allay concerns that extending the previous moratorium without congressional approval would go against the Supreme Court, said the responsibles.
Tenant groups argued that the extension of the original moratorium, imposed by the CDC in November, is needed to buy time to fully implement an emergency rental assistance program that has been plagued by state and local delays.
The review of a new freeze comes as President Nancy Pelosi and a group of Progressive Democrats, led by Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, pressured the White House to act quickly – after Mr. Biden referred the matter to Congress last week, arguing he did not. have the legal authority to extend the ban without legislative approval.
House Democrats on Tuesday urged Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen to do more to help troubled tenants who risk being forced out of their homes, saying the Biden administration should have extended a moratorium on evictions which expired last weekend and urging the Treasury Department to do whatever it takes to get rent assistance at the door.
In a private call between Democrats and Ms Yellen, the Treasury Secretary insisted her team was using whatever tools were available to get rent assistance to states and to help governments distribute those funds to the states. owners and tenants. She told lawmakers the administration “will spare no effort” to deal with the national emergency.
“I totally agree that we need to mobilize all resources,” Ms. Yellen said, according to one person who was on the call.
Ms Pelosi, for her part, tried to bridge the gap between the Progressive Democrats and a group of a dozen moderates in her caucus who blocked efforts to pass a bill last week that would have extended the freeze until at the end of the year .
Ms Pelosi said during the appeal that the moratorium on evictions should be extended. Ms Yellen noted that Mr Biden had asked the CDC to see if it was legally possible to extend the deportation ban and that she hoped they would take a careful look at this.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that Mr Biden asked the CDC on Sunday to consider extending the 30-day moratorium, even only to high-risk states, but said the CDC “has been unable to find authority for a new moratorium on targeted evictions. Our team is redoubling its efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide the necessary protections.”
The administration appears to be rallying around a solution to this legal problem by imposing a new moratorium, rather than extending the existing one.
Speaking at the White House briefing on Tuesday, Psaki said the administration was exploring all potential solutions, including a “short-term limited partial extension”, but no decision had been made.
In a White House meeting with Mr Biden on Friday, Ms Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, bluntly informed Mr Biden that they did not have the votes to pass an extension – and urged him to take whatever action possible using his executive power, according to two Democratic congressional advisers briefed on the meeting.
The Biden administration said it did not have the legal authority to extend the moratorium and called on Congress to find a legislative solution. On Monday, the administration called on states to step up efforts to provide more federal assistance to troubled tenants – while making a desperate appeal to localities to extend their own local moratoria.
In a letter to her colleagues on Tuesday, Ms Pelosi said she would discuss with Ms Yellen how to speed up the disbursement of the $ 46.5 billion Congress has allocated to keep people in their homes.
“I am delighted that accelerating rental assistance is a declared administration priority,” said Ms Pelosi.
But senior Democrats pushed the White House to do more.
“I wish the president, the CDC would go ahead and extend the moratorium,” Representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat of California and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said Monday in an interview with The New York Times. “They have the power to do it. I think he should have come in and he should have, and dropped the chips where they can.
Ms Waters echoed this sentiment in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, attacking the Biden administration for its “refusal” to extend the moratorium and for a “last-minute kick to Congress.”
With the moratorium in limbo, Ms Yellen is under additional pressure to drain the rent assistance money. Only about $ 3 billion of the $ 46 billion had been delivered to eligible households through June, according to Treasury Department data.
In recent weeks, Ms Yellen’s deputy Wally Adeyemo has traveled to Houston and Arlington, Va., Where the distribution of the rental aid has gone well, to help raise awareness of the program and figure out how to make it more effective.
The Treasury Department is stepping up efforts to raise awareness of rent assistance money, potentially through radio or social media campaigns, and is trying to let governments know that the administration can offer support additional to states that do not have the necessary infrastructure to effectively distribute rent assistance money. .
Ms Yellen told lawmakers that the Treasury Department will send out information packets containing material that can be used in advertisements and through social media in their districts.
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