House Democrats Urge Biden to Extend Pause on Evictions

By Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
August 2, 2021 Updated: August 2, 2021

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Democrat Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Md.) joined progressives to call on the Biden administration to extend the eviction moratorium until Oct. 18.

In a written statement on Monday, House Leadership said the pandemic is not over yet and those people who cannot pay their rent need Congress to extend the moratorium so states can distribute the funds previously allocated by the federal government.

“The virus is still a threat. The moratorium must be extended, and the funds Congress allocated to assist renters and landlords must be spent,” said the House leaders. “An extension of the moratorium is based on public health and the delta variant. It will also give more time to allow the money that Congress allocated to finally flow.

“We call upon the Treasury Department to indicate how the funds that it has already transferred to states and communities can be more effectively distributed to renters and landlords.”

Other Democrats have also been calling on the Biden administration to extend the rent pause, including progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) demanding that Biden extend the subsidies for renters affected by pandemic-related economic challenges.

Ocasio-Cortez said that while she blames her own party for allowing the moratorium to expire, state governments need to move more quickly to get federal dollars to renters to pay back rent.

“I think, in some states, some governors and state administrations might be slow-walking this process to get it out,” she said. “In other states, there’s the administrative burden of setting it up. But there are states and municipalities that have been getting it right. Frankly, those state governments need to get it together, but we cannot kick people out of their homes when our end of the bargain has not been fulfilled.”

Under the Biden administration, The American Rescue Plan allocated $21.5 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) adding to the previously allocated $25 billion under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, bringing the total amount of assistance available to more than $46 billion. The funding is there but states have been slow to get the allocated funds out the door to renters.

Even with the allocated funding coming to states, landlords have lost billions of dollars in unpaid rent and have been forced to take legal action against the federal government to get reimbursed for their losses.

The National Apartment Association (NAA), a group whose members rent out nearly 10 million rental properties in the United States, filed a lawsuit on July 27 in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington.

According to the NAA, the eviction moratorium put out by the Centers for Disease Control is unconstitutional and has left landlords “holding the bag on $26.6 billion in rental debt after operating under extreme conditions for 16 months.”

Robert Pinnegar, CEO of the NAA, said in late June that the federal funding will not cover all the back rent owed to small landlords, and that rather than issuing more handouts, the government needs to open the economy and get people back to work so they can pay their rent.

As of March, there was “$18.6 billion in rent debt that is unfunded, and by the time we get to the end of July that could easily be $25 or $26 billion,” Pinnegar told CNBC. “So, this is a growing crisis, and the faster we can get dollars out, great. But also, the quicker we can get the economy open and get people working again is really going to be our long-term solution.”

Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq