The Eviction Moratorium Has Expired–Biden Urges States to Continue

Democrats hold the majority in both houses of Congress and they hold White House.

So how did such an important democratic issue like the eviction moratorium in place since September slip through the Democrats’ fingers?

Now 15 million Americans face possible homelessness.

Moreover, this is happening as the COVID-19 Delta variant is threatening to erase the progress we have made against the deadly disease.

Presidential adviser Gene Sperling blamed a June Supreme Court ruling that prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from intervening to extend the moratorium.

Only Congress has the authority to do that, the ruling stated.

Progressives wasted no time in blasting the White House and congressional members who returned to their districts for the August.

Missouri Congressmember Cori Bush–once homeless herself –has been sleeping on the Capitol steps since Friday to raise awareness and express her indignation toward her colleagues who returned home.

Joining her in her protest are NY Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who tweeted:

“It’s outrageous that in the middle of a deadly pandemic the eviction moratorium has ended. We cannot allow people to be thrown onto the streets.” 

The White House argues it lacks the authority to extend a national moratorium.

It is opting instead to defer to state and local governments, which President Joe Biden said have the potential to disburse federal aid to spare a third of the country from impending evictions over the upcoming month as kids all over America–many of whom will be evicted with their caregivers–are preparing to return to school.

President Biden said in a statement Friday:

“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic. Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can. State and local governments should also be aware that there is no legal barrier to moratorium at the state and local level.”

Gene Sperling added:

“The president is clear: if some states and localities can get this out efficiently and effectively there’s no reason every state and locality can’t.”

States with tepid renter protections, like Florida, are facing an “avalanche” of evictions while states with more robust protections, like Washington, are not expected to be hit as severely.

USA Today reported:

“Parts of the South and other regions with weaker tenant protections will likely see the largest spikes, and communities of color, where vaccination rates are sometimes lower, will be hit hardest. The crisis will only get worse in September when the first foreclosure proceedings are expected to begin. An estimated 1.75 million homeowners—roughly 3.5% of all homes—are in some sort of forbearance plan with their banks, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.”

But one is completely safe.

Director of policy and advocacy at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, Michele Thomas, said:

“There has consistently been hundreds of thousands of renters in Washington state who have reported that they are hanging on by a thread. We’ve never spent this much money [$1 billion in renter assistance] on homelessness prevention before, so our provider system is working really hard, but it takes time to process the applications.”

Politico reported:

“Even though it has its own ban in place through August, New York is also a concern, because it has been especially slow at distributing rental assistance funds to the hundreds of thousands of tenants in the state who are behind on their rent.”

Citing a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) analysis, CBS News reported:

“About 16% of U.S. households were behind on rent—double the pre-pandemic level. But the rent burden is spread unequally around the country. In some states, more than a quarter of renters are behind on payments, according to CPBB calculations. The Southeast is the hardest hit: 29% of renters in Mississippi and 28% in South Carolina were behind in the first week of July, according to the CBPP’s calculations. In Georgia, 1 in 4 isn’t caught up on rent.”

Instead of throwing up our hands in despair, we have have the power to contact our federal, state, and local lawmakers and urge them to use their authority to extend evictions.

It’s a safety issue, health issue, economic issue, and a human rights issue.

Like health care, housing is a human right.

What good is being the richest country in the history of the world if we can’t take care of the least among us?

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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.