By Emma Nitzsche
On July 31, the federal eviction moratorium expired and left an estimated 1.95 million U.S. renter households with more than $15.3 billion in back rent. Although evictions have mostly ceased during the pandemic, the total number is expected to ramp up this week after Congress and the Biden administration allowed the federal moratorium to expire.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established the federal eviction moratorium in September 2020. The goal was to halt evictions due to missed rent because of surging unemployment and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The CDC found that evicted individuals are often forced to share living space with relatives or friends, sometimes moving into crowded homeless shelters, which would severely undermine social distancing restrictions.
Over a year and a half, the CDC extended the moratorium several times until the U.S. Supreme Court ordered to leave the policy in place until the end of July. In his majority opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that the CDC lacked the authority to continue extending the eviction ban unless they went through Congress.
“In my view, clear and specific congressional authorization would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31,” Kavanaugh’s opinion stated.
The night before the moratorium expired, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leaders called on the Biden administration to immediately extend the moratorium, coining it as a “moral imperative” to protect Americans from being removed from their homes during a pandemic.
“Really, we only learned about this yesterday,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the New York Times last Friday.
The Biden administration responded by saying they were forced to allow the ban to expire after the decision from the Supreme Court gave Congress the power to act.
Despite the president’s call, Congress failed to address the issue before going on break. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA.) introduced H.R. 4791 on July 30 to extend the moratorium through Dec. 31. However, the proposal failed to get sufficient support for a formal vote, and the House entered a six-week recess.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, approximately 450,000 eviction cases have been filed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months. Another recent survey by the Census Bureau found that an estimated 11 million adult tenants are considered seriously delinquent on rents.
Despite the federal eviction moratorium ending, some states still have local eviction moratoria in place. Those states are Hawaii (Aug. 6), Maryland (Aug. 15), New York (Aug. 30), Minnesota (Sep. 12), California (Sep. 30), Washington (Sep. 30), and New Jersey (the official end of the public health emergency designation plus two months).
The Biden administration intended for the historic amounts of rental assistance allocated by Congress in December and March to help avert an eviction crisis, but the funds have been slowly dispersed. While lawmakers have secured $47 billion for relief as part of the Emergency Rental Assistance program, logistical issues have resulted in only about $3 billion of the funds distributed to around 600,000 tenants.