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AOC, other Democrats push at the last minute for Biden to extend federal eviction ban with millions at housing risk in 3 days

  • Some Democrats are urging the administration to extend the federal eviction ban.
  • Reps. Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are some of them.
  • A key Senate Democrat overseeing the rental aid program told Insider he’s not pushing for a renewal yet.

Democrats in Congress are starting to ramp up pressure on the Biden administration to extend an eviction moratorium that ends in three days, given that only a small fraction of rental aid has flowed out from a stimulus program.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranked Senate Democrat, said the Biden administration should extend the moratorium.

“I think they should,” he told Insider on Wednesday. “There are a lot of people still struggling. Let me tell you, a wave of evictions in America is not good for landlords or tenants.”

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii told Insider on Tuesday he backs renewing the federal eviction ban, while House Financial Services chair Maxine Waters of California told the same thing to Politico, despite concerns it may trigger legal battles. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also urged the White House on Friday to extend the ban.

Another Senate Democrat with a major role overseeing the program, though, signaled on Tuesday that he’s not immediately pushing for an extension. “The CDC is making that decision,” Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the Senate Banking chair, told Insider, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “My job is to make sure the money gets out as quickly possible.”

He said emergency rental aid flowed quicker in June compared to previous months and expressed confidence more federal aid would go out the door in August. “This should keep people from being evicted in large numbers,” he said, adding, “we’re trying to find a way.”

Around 6 million people are at risk of getting evicted in the coming months, or 16% of all renters, per Census Pulse Survey Data. Around one in four Black renters reported being behind on their payments.

For its part, the Biden administration doesn’t appear poised to renew the eviction moratorium beyond Saturday. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday they “will be watching this closely” and continue having “ongoing discussions about how we can continue to help renters.”

A recent Supreme Court decision could be complicating the Biden administration’s options. Although the high court issued a 5-4 decision upholding the moratorium until July, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh one of two conservatives joining the majority, he also warned the administration in a short opinion not to renew it beyond July 31. Kavanaugh argued that “clear and specific congressional authorization” would be needed for such a renewal.

‘A firehose that’s going around extinguishing debt’

Housing advocates are stepping up calls for lawmakers and the Biden administration to either renew or shore up the moratorium. Congress set aside $46 billion for rent assistance since late last year, but Treasury data shows only $3 billion has been delivered to struggling renters. 

Experts say the emergency rental program struggled to get off the ground since state and local governments didn’t have the apparatus to issue relief payments quickly. For example, some tried ensuring that landlords and tenants agreed on the amount of back rent owed, which delayed getting money out.

“The Biden administration or Congress should extend and strengthen a federal eviction moratorium,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in Congressional testimony on Tuesday. She cited rising virus infections in many parts of the country from the Delta variant, low vaccination rates in areas with high eviction filings, and the trickling pace of rental aid delivery.

Only certain renters qualify for relief, such as those earning below $99,000 in 2021. In addition, renters must have lost “substantial” household income due to a layoff or cut in work hours. People must also be applying “best efforts” to make partial rent payments for their debt to be erased.

“That is just a firehose that’s going around extinguishing debt wherever it goes,” Paul Williams, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute, said in an interview.  “Every day evictions are not happening is more of that debt being extinguished.”

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