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White House Calls On States To Do More After Federal Eviction Ban Expires

Gene Sperling, who leads the oversight for distributing funds from President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, speaks during the daily White House press briefing Monday, as White House press secretary Jen Psaki looks on.
Gene Sperling, who leads the oversight for distributing funds from President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, speaks during the daily White House press briefing Monday, as White House press secretary Jen Psaki looks on.

The White House on Monday urged state and local governments to step up to prevent evictions, after a federal moratorium expired over the weekend.

Democratic allies have called on the Biden administration to extend the federal pause on evictions, but the White House maintains that its hands are tied by a June Supreme Court ruling.

Gene Sperling, a White House adviser, told reporters Monday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which initially established the moratorium as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — had not found the legal authority to further extend the eviction measure.

"Given the rising urgency of the spread of the delta variant, the president has asked all of us, including the CDC, to do everything in our power, to look for every potential legal authority we can have to prevent evictions," Sperling said.

But, he added: "To date, the CDC director and her team have been unable to find the legal authority, even for a more targeted eviction moratorium, that would focus just on counties with higher rates of COVID spread."

His comments came after Congress failed to pass a last-minute extension of the federal eviction moratorium beyond Saturday's expiration date. Democratic congressional leaders have called on Biden to extend the moratorium through Oct. 18, but the White House said it was unable to do so, citing a Supreme Court ruling that said Congress needed to act on any further eviction bans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has pressed the White House to extend the eviction ban, reservedly cheered the administration's messaging Monday.

"The Administration's statement that they will be taking action to find legal authority by the CDC or other authorities to extend the moratorium is welcome," she said in a statement. "For the good of families on the verge of eviction, my Democratic House colleagues and I are hopeful that this initiative to extend the moratorium will be successful as soon as possible."

Billions in aid hasn't been disbursed

Sperling on Monday said President Biden had requested that state and local governments extend or pass eviction moratoriums to cover until the end of summer.

Sperling said that already some state and local governments had enacted their own legislation to prevent evictions, protecting a third of the nation's renters beyond the federal halt.

He said the White House had implored other states and localities to follow suit.

The administration has also reiterated that billions of dollars in aid that was funded by Congress is available for rental assistance.

"There is no excuse for any State or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet the critical need of so many Americans," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

She added: "This assistance provides the funding to pay landlords current and back rent so tenants can remain in their homes or apartments, not be evicted. No one in America should be evicted when Federal funds are available, in the hands of State and local government, to pay back rent due."

Psaki particularly focused on the rise of the delta variant, which has caused a national spike in COVID-related hospitalizations, but said that the Supreme Court had crippled the CDC's ability to aid those suffering from housing insecurity in the virus's wake.

Sperling said that on Monday, Biden had asked government agencies, including the Agriculture and Treasury departments, to see to it that those who benefit from government-backed mortgages should not seek evictions without first seeking rental assistance, which can fund up to 18 months of rent and utilities.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alana Wise joined WAMU in September 2018 as the 2018-2020 Audion Reporting Fellow for Guns & America. Selected as one of 10 recipients nationwide of the Audion Reporting Fellowship, Alana works in the WAMU newsroom as part of a national reporting project and is spending two years focusing on the impact of guns in the Washington region.
Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.