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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday that it would be extending a moratorium on evictions until July 31. This will be the last time the CDC extends the moratorium, the Biden administration said.
The moratorium was originally scheduled to end at the end of this month on June 30. Over 6 million Americans are behind on rent payments, according to recent Census Bureau data, meaning that many are likely to face the possibility of eviction when the moratorium is lifted. The Biden administration is hoping that the extension will help to stymie a potential crisis, officials said, but emphasized that the postponement will last only “one final month.”
The goal, a senior administration official told reporters, per Politico, is to use “these 30 days to do everything possible to mitigate harmful evictions and prevent a flood of evictions when the moratorium ends.”
The administration also announced several other initiatives on Thursday meant to help mitigate a flood of evictions. Officials issued new guidance for state and local governments to use $47 billion in emergency rental assistance from Congress and the Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta released a letter urging courts to actively explore alternatives to evictions.
Gupta in her letter warned that “eviction filings are expected to overwhelm courts across the country.” However, the federal guidance for governments and courts is not binding, and experts fear evictions will skyrocket despite these words of caution.
A group of House Democrats sent a letter to Joe Biden and CDC director Rochelle Walensky Tuesday asking the president and CDC to “extend and strengthen” the eviction moratorium.
“Without further action, in just eight days, the CDC moratorium will expire, and millions of renters will once again face the threat of eviction,” the letter signed by over 50 Democrats, including members of the progressive “squad,” read. “Evictions take lives and push households deeper into poverty, impacting everything from health outcomes to educational attainment.”
The Democrats also point out in their letter that eviction doesn’t threaten everyone equally. “The eviction crisis is a racial justice issue,” they write, pointing to data that shows that nonwhite households are more likely to report being behind on rent payments than their white counterparts. They did not specify the length of time they wanted the moratorium to be extended.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), who spearheaded the Democrats’ letter, thanked Biden for the extension on Twitter on Thursday night. “Thank you to [Biden] and [Walensky] for heeding our calls to extend the eviction moratorium. This pandemic isn’t over and housing is a human right.”
But housing advocates are skeptical that delaying the lifting of the moratorium for only one month would be effective. “We’re simply going to have a horrific crisis in August instead of July,” Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told Politico. Thirty days, Yentel pointed out, may not be enough time to distribute enough resources to the millions of renters in need.
Indeed, though the Biden administration is saying that this is the last time the moratorium will be extended, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) said on Twitter that it should be extended again. “We have urgent work to do over the next month to secure real rent relief for the millions of people still facing eviction and to further extend and strengthen the moratorium,” she wrote on Thursday evening.
State and local governments have also launched initiatives to help prevent an “eviction cliff.” California officials recently announced that they would be using $5.2 billion from federal pandemic aid to help renters pay off their past-due rent payments. The state’s eviction moratorium was set to expire at the end of the month, however, which likely wouldn’t have been enough time to help many renters secure relief. Additionally, the relief will only help a small portion of renters, pointed out Dean Preston, tenant attorney and progressive district supervisor in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, the eviction crisis overlaps with urgent public health concerns: Princeton’s Eviction Lab recently found that, in cities across the country, the neighborhoods with the most eviction filings are also the neighborhoods with the lowest vaccination rates, due partially to vaccine equity issues.
“The CDC eviction moratorium is, for many tenants behind on rent, the last remaining protection from the threat of displacement,” wrote the Eviction Lab. “As its expiration nears, few protections stand in the way of a family losing their home, and potentially contracting a life-threatening virus.”