White House Calls on States to Prevent Eviction Crisis
With the federal moratorium on evictions expired over the weekend, the White House on Monday sought to limit the impact, demanding that states speed up the disbursement of billions in bottled rental aid, while imploring local governments to immediately enact their own extensions.
President Biden – criticized for refusing to extend the freeze and eager to prove he was taking action – announced a series of limited measures to slow evictions on Monday afternoon, ordering federal agencies to consider targeted moratoria for tenants in federally subsidized housing and asking state judges for a slow eviction process.
The moratorium, imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last fall, expired on Saturday after a frantic and unsuccessful effort on Capitol Hill to extend the freeze until the end of the year, putting hundreds of thousands tenants in danger of losing shelter.
“There’s just a lot of fear right now,” said Bob Glaves, executive director of the Chicago Bar Foundation, who worked with tenants and landlords to tap a $ 47 billion fund allocated by Congress to repay the rents accrued during the pandemic.
Legal aid groups and other tenant organizations have reported a massive flood of phone calls and emails from tenants panicked by the end of the eviction freeze, which occurred at midnight on Saturday.
Administration officials made it clear on Monday that there was little they could do, blaming states that the $ 47 billion emergency rent assistance program intended to avert such a crisis did not ‘spent only $ 3 billion, or only 7% of the total.
“We expect these numbers to increase, but it won’t be enough to meet the needs, unless every state and locality accelerates funds for tenants,” Gene Sperling, who oversees the tenants, told reporters. pandemic relief efforts for Mr Biden. .
“There is no place to hide for a state or locality that fails to accelerate its emergency rental assistance funds,” he said.
But many Democrats, including President Nancy Pelosi, called on Biden to reconsider his decision not to act unilaterally and expressed anger at the White House for only giving them two days to pass a law to extend. the freeze.
“People were promised something – help – and it didn’t happen,” said Rep. Cori Bush, Democrat from Missouri, who was sleeping on the steps of the Capitol in protest against the end of the moratorium. “It’s amazing. It’s shocking. It’s unacceptable. It’s cruel. We cannot stand idly by when people are in pain.
Biden administration officials referred the issue to Congressional Democrats on Thursday, saying a recent Supreme Court ruling made it nearly impossible to order an extension without compromising the executive’s right to implement policies. emergencies in future public health crises.
Since then, Biden administration officials have been working over the phone, calling on states to prevent or even slow down landlords from evicting tenants until the unstable funding pipeline – which has suffered delays – is functional.
Over the weekend, Mr Biden called Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC and the official with the authority to extend the freeze, to explore the possibility of limiting an extension to areas particularly affected by the Delta variant, but he was told. said it wasn’t. possible.
“Everyone” in the West Wing wanted to extend the moratorium, Mr Sperling said in an interview. “But what is clear from the legal analysis is that we had already argued this issue all the way to the Supreme Court.”
In a related move, the Treasury Department on Monday released guidance on how states can spend up to $ 10 billion in financial assistance to people at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure.
The money can be distributed to borrowers who have fallen behind on mortgage payments, as directed, but also to people who have taken out loans to buy mobile homes to live in, or who have acquired a house as part of the scheme. a contract for authentic instrument – a loan financed by the seller of the property.
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