US authorities scramble, trade blame as millions face eviction
August 02 2021 11:48 PM
lawmaker
Lawmaker Cori Bush and other activists are seen outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, where they have been camping out to protest the ending of the eviction moratorium.

AFP/Reuters/Washington

Eviction protections expired over the weekend for millions of Americans who could face homelessness within days, triggering a scramble to unlock billions in stalled rental aid and recriminations in Washington.
Renters had been shielded from eviction for nearly a year as part of a government moratorium intended to keep people in their houses during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
However, lawmakers have failed to extend those expiring protections and only $3bn in aid has reached households out of the $25bn allotted to states and localities in early February.
“We should be compassionate. We should help. And if that money is there, we should use it for its intended purpose,” Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told CNN.
Over a quarter of renters are behind in some states, according to the Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities think-tank.
Southern states are some of the worst affected, though some 16% of US households owed rent – about double the amount before the pandemic.
The protections lapsed at midnight on Saturday, two days after the White House announced that it would not be legally able to renew the moratorium.
Republicans balked at Democratic efforts to extend the freeze through mid-October, and the House of Representatives adjourned for its summer vacation on Friday without renewing it.
However, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez laid blame on President Joe Biden’s administration for waiting until the last minute to ask Congress to act – saying that it could have done so weeks earlier.
She added it would be unfair to turf people out when billions in aid have not been spent – a total of $46.5bn has been approved by Congress – and called for an immediate vote to extend the moratorium.
“We cannot kick people out of their homes when our end of the bargain has not been fulfilled,” she told CNN.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior Democratic leaders also urged Biden to extend the moratorium in a statement on Sunday.
“Doing so is a moral imperative to keep people from being put out on the street which also contributes to the public health emergency,” they said.
Unlike other pandemic-related aid that was distributed from Washington, it was states, counties and cities that were responsible for building programmes from the ground up to dole out help to renters.
Yesterday Pelosi put fresh pressure on the White House to reinstate the moratorium.
In a letter to fellow House Democrats, the House Speaker urged President Joe Biden’s administration to renew the moratorium without congressional action.
Pelosi told lawmakers that such an extension would provide more time to speed distribution of $46.5bn already allocated by Congress for rental relief.
“The money must flow, and the moratorium must be extended by the administration,” she wrote.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to brief lawmakers on the eviction mitigation funds today, Pelosi said.
Congressional Black Caucus chair Joyce Beatty said the moratorium’s end means “thousands of black families and children could lose the roof over their heads at a time when the deadly pandemic is surging once again, and their lives are in disorder due to the pandemic”.
Samantha Pate and Andrew Martinez are two renters who wonder when their eviction notice may come.
Their family of four in the western state of Colorado is eight months behind in rent, roughly $8,000, they told local TV station KDVR on Saturday.
Both have been working or looking for work but have been struggling to survive financially.
They said they may end up living in tents.
“This is not camping for us, this is going to be a way of life,” Martinez said.
The moratorium and other protections prevented an estimated 2.2mn eviction filings since March 2020, said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.
If those renters are forced back onto the market, they will be facing ever higher prices, according to a realtor.com June rental report.
Rental prices reached new highs in sections of the country, with some parts of Florida and California seeing more than 20% in price hikes over the previous year.
This “is adding to the challenges faced by lower-income Americans as they struggle to recover from job losses and other hardships brought about by Covid”, said Realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale.
Landlord groups have opposed the moratorium, which the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented to combat the spread of Covid-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic.
The CDC first issued it in September 2020 after a prior moratorium approved by Congress expired.
The National Apartment Association, with 82,600 members that collectively manage more than 9.7mn rental units, last week sued the US government seeking billions of dollars in unpaid rent due to the moratorium.



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