The House of Representatives failed in a last ditch bid to extend the controversial moratorium on evictions that’s slated to expire Saturday.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (pictured), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip James Clyburn blamed Republicans for the failed bill, which proposed extending the moratorium for another three months.
“It is extremely disappointing that House and Senate Republicans have refused to work with us on this issue," they wrote in the statement. "We strongly urge them to reconsider their opposition to helping millions of Americans and instead join with us to help renters and landlords hit hardest by the pandemic and prevent a nationwide eviction crisis.”
Notably, California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who introduced the bill, did not sign the statement criticizing Republicans. “I just thought we should’ve fought harder,” she told POLITICO after the bill failed to gain enough votes.
Pelosi had sent an email to House Democrats Friday morning urging support for the bill, which would have directed the Centers for Disease Control to extend its nationwide moratorium on people being evicted from their homes. She told representatives that Congress had the power to direct the CDC to extend the moratorium in order to provide relief while state and local governments work to distribute rental assistance cash.
Numerous House Democrats supported extending the legislation.
"I'm urging you to please hear me out on this issue because as a formerly unhoused Congresswoman, I have been evicted three times myself," Missouri Democratic Rep. Cori Bush wrote in a letter to House Democrats. "…If Congress does not act now, the fallout of the eviction crisis will undoubtedly set us backwards as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravish our communities — needlessly contributing to more death and suffering."
The bill proposed extending the freeze on evictions until October 18, which is when the CDC’s public health emergency declaration on COVID-19 is set to expire.
The CDC introduced the moratorium on evictions in September 2020 at a time when many were experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic. The ban on evictions was ostensibly done to prevent a health crisis, as officials feared making thousands of people homeless would lead to a spread of the disease.
The ban has faced a lot of opposition, primarily from landlords and other industry groups. Critics say the CDC exceeded its authority by imposing the moratorium, but a Supreme Court ruling earlier this month allowed the ban to stay in place until the end of July.
The last ditch bid to extend the moratorium came despite a promise from President Joe Biden that the previous, one-month extension to the ban would be “the last time”. The President apparently had a change of heart, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told media on Thursday the President would have “strongly supported” another extension due to a spike in cases of the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19. Data from John Hopkins University shows that daily cases of COVID-19 are almost double what they were last summer.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available,” Psaki said.
To support struggling tenants, Biden on Friday evening released a statement urging state and local governments to take “all possible steps” to ensure Emergency Rental Assistance funding gets to those who need it. The funds were first released to states in February and more have been made available with the American Rescue Plan, but the rollout of those funds has been slow.
"My Administration will not rest – nor should state and local governments – until Emergency Rental Assistance dollars reach Americans in need," Biden said in the statement.
Also Friday, the White House said it asked the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs to extend a separate moratorium on evictions until the end of September, in order to protect households in federally insured, single-family homes.
Those departments issued a joint statement Friday evening saying that they, along with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, have extended a foreclosure-related eviction moratorium until Sept. 30.
“Our country and economy are in a stronger position now than they were in January 2021, yet households across the country, especially those that are not vaccinated, remain vulnerable to COVID-19 and its associated impacts, including housing insecurity,” the statement read. “Helping our fellow Americans, including our veterans, keep their homes will go a long way in making sure that they have one less thing to worry about as they rebuild their lives coming out of this crisis and try to keep their loved ones safe.”
Proponents of extending the moratorium on evictions have previously argued that millions are at risk of losing their homes if the ban expires during a time of economic uncertainty.
According to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, around 6.4 million Americans were behind on their rent at the end of March. As of July 5, around 3.6 million people said they feared being evicted within the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Flash Pulse Survey.