House and Senate Democrats are looking to the White House to immediately act to stop evictions after a federal moratorium against landlords doing so expired Saturday.
But President Joe Biden said a recent Supreme Court ruling means the administration cannot unilaterally extend the moratorium.
For his part, the president has called on state and local governments to resolve the problem.
The White House said the American Rescue Plan provided $47 billion in rental assistance earlier this year, but states and localities have used just $3 billion of those available funds.
“We as a country have never had a national infrastructure or national policy preventing avoidable evictions,” American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling responded in a White House briefing on Monday.
“State and local governments must do more to help,” Sperling asserted.
It’s not currently known just how many Americans face eviction, but leaders in the House and Senate have urged the White House to act.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said she believes about 11 million families are affected, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) contended that “putting people on the streets contributes to the spread of the virus.”
“As they have called upon the American people to mask up, to be vaccinated and to take other public health precautions, it is critical, in recognition of this urgency, that they extend the eviction moratorium,” Pelosi wrote in a letter Monday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration had taken further action to prevent Americans from experiencing eviction.
Psaki said nearly 33 percent of the country wouldn’t face eviction through August.
“Thanks to the bipartisan COVID relief act Congress passed in December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan the Biden administration enacted in March, state and local governments long ago received emergency rental assistance – a $46.5 billion plan to protect millions of Americans facing deep rental debt and potential eviction during the pandemic,” she said.
Some cities and states have “demonstrated their ability to release these funds efficiently to tenants and landlords in need,” Psaki added.
“But even though funds began to be distributed in February by the Biden administration, too many states and cities have been too slow to act,” she said. “There is no excuse for any state or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet the critical need of so many Americans.
“This assistance provides the funding to pay landlords current and back rent so tenants can remain in their homes or apartments, not be evicted,” Psaki continued. “No one in America should be evicted when federal funds are available, in the hands of state and local government, to pay back rent due.”
While Pelosi has asked Biden to act, Psaki said he would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court declared on June 29 that the CDC could not grant such an extension without clear and specific congressional authorization via new legislation,” Psaki said.
Because of the spread of the delta variant, Biden asked the CDC to consider executive action. The White House said he raised the prospect of a new, 30-day eviction moratorium focused on counties with high or substantial case rates.
Psaki said the temporary measure would spur states and localities to ramp up emergency rental assistance programs to full spend – allowing every landlord to collect the rent they are owed and ensuring no eligible family gets evicted.
“To date, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her team have been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium,” Psaki said. “Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections.”