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Biden asks Congress to extend eviction moratorium 'without delay' as expiration looms

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 7/29/2021 Michael Collins, USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden made an urgent plea Thursday for Congress to extend a nationwide moratorium on evictions, arguing a Supreme Court ruling had left him unable to act on his own.

The eviction freeze, which is set to expire on Saturday, was put in place last September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect Americans who have fallen behind on their rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden extended the moratorium through the end of July; he would have “strongly supported” another extension, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday, particularly as the delta variant drives a spike in new COVID-19 infections. She said the president is concerned the uptick in cases is hitting Americans who are most likely to face evictions and lack vaccinations the hardest. 

a group of people standing in a room: PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 06: Maricopa County constable Lenny McCloskey evicts a tenant for non-payment of rent on October 6, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Thousands of court-ordered evictions continue nationwide despite a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) moratorium for renters impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Although state and county officials say they have tried to educate the public on the protections, many renters remain unaware and fail to complete the necessary forms to remain in their homes. In many cases landlords have worked out more flexible payment plans with vulnerable tenants, although these temporary solutions have become fraught as the pandemic drags on. With millions of Americans still unemployed due to the pandemic, federal rental assistance proposals remain gridlocked in Congress. The expiry of the CDC moratorium at year's end looms large, as renters and landlord face a potential tsunami of evictions and foreclosures nationwide. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775570162 ORIG FILE ID: 1279352031 © John Moore, Getty Images PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 06: Maricopa County constable Lenny McCloskey evicts a tenant for non-payment of rent on October 6, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Thousands of court-ordered evictions continue nationwide despite a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) moratorium for renters impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Although state and county officials say they have tried to educate the public on the protections, many renters remain unaware and fail to complete the necessary forms to remain in their homes. In many cases landlords have worked out more flexible payment plans with vulnerable tenants, although these temporary solutions have become fraught as the pandemic drags on. With millions of Americans still unemployed due to the pandemic, federal rental assistance proposals remain gridlocked in Congress. The expiry of the CDC moratorium at year's end looms large, as renters and landlord face a potential tsunami of evictions and foreclosures nationwide. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775570162 ORIG FILE ID: 1279352031

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“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available,” Psaki said. 

A house divided: As millions of Americans face evictions, others buy dream homes during COVID-19

In a 5-4 ruling last month, the Supreme Court allowed the moratorium to remain in place through July 31 over the objections of landlords, realtors and other groups.

Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, said he believed the CDC had exceed its authority, but would vote to keep the moratorium in place because the agency had signaled it would end the freeze in “only a few weeks.” But Kavanaugh made it clear he would block any future extensions unless there was “clear and specific congressional authorization.”


Video: Federal eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of the month (MSNBC)

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"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," Psaki said.

Housing advocates and other groups warned that ending the nationwide ban would leave millions of Americans at risk of eviction and lead to a huge spike in homelessness. 

“These rollbacks of lifesaving protections are premature and will lead to the worst eviction crisis in U.S. history,” said Jaboa Lake, senior policy analyst with  the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning public policy group based in  Washington.

By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic, and many communities have not even begun to recover," Lake said. “The federal government has shown that it can take swift action to prevent evictions, and it must continue to provide these protections. In this moment, we have seen that housing truly is health care, and keeping people housed saves lives.”

The White House said it has asked the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs to extend their respective eviction freezes through the end of September, which will provide continued protection for households living in federally insured, single-family properties.

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction moratorium 'without delay' as expiration looms

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