Notwithstanding an extension to the moratorium on evicting renters during the pandemic, many lawmakers still are incensed that the current presidential administration has let them down. A Democratic lawmaker spent the night outside the Capitol to protest the presumed end of the COVID-19 eviction ban, which expired at midnight on July 31, 2021. Days later, the Centers for Disease Control issued an order extending the ban, which now will expire on Oct. 3, 2021.
President Biden had publicly called on local governments to “take all possible steps” to disburse rental assistance funds quickly, but then stopped short of extending the ban. He announced the Thursday prior to the July 31 milestone that he would allow the ban to expire since doing otherwise would require a challenge to a recent Supreme Court ruling indicating additional extensions would be blocked unless they came with “clear and specific congressional authorization.” That ruling was made in late June, but the legislation was not put forward until Friday, July 30. Democrats failed to pass the legislation, and many blamed the president for failing to act despite “warnings” from the Supreme Court.
“We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have a majority,” complained U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), explaining she had to “call a spade a spade.” Ocasio-Cortez stopped short of camping on the Capitol steps, however, leaving that to Missouri Democrat Cori Bush. Bush explained via Instagram during her protest that she had been evicted three times and lived in her car with her two children before entering politics. She said the extension – which she proposed should last until December 31, 2021, would “buy some time…to see how we can work together to get this done.”
During the pandemic, Congress approved about $47 billion in federal housing aid to help renters and landlords survive the crisis. However, much of that money remains tied up in administrative and bureaucratic processes, meaning that more than 3 million Americans may face eviction now that the ban has expired. For example, in Michigan, about $500 million in “eviction prevention aid” remains unclaimed. In a single county in Georgia, only 10 percent of available assistance has been claimed. In many cases, landlords cannot access this money even if they are aware of the programs unless tenants cooperate. At the end of March of this year, more than one in 10 landlords had already sold at least one property due to rental losses. The National Apartment Association recently filed a lawsuit in the United States Court of Federal Claims for $26.6 billion in rental debts due to the “unlawful” eviction moratorium.
The lawsuit seeks to remedy, for NAA members, “the enormous economic consequences from being unable to evict non-rent-paying tenants from rental units and to generate income by leasing those units to rent-paying tenants.” The NAA seeks both “fair compensation for damages suffered” and “assurance that the federal government can never do this again,” a spokesperson said.