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Evictions Loom as Ban Expires          07/31 10:16


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- A nationwide eviction moratorium is set to expire 
Saturday night after President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress worked 
furiously but ultimately failed to align on a long-shot strategy to prevent 
millions of Americans from being forced from their homes during a COVID-19 

   More than 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, some in a matter of 
days, as nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the 
pandemic has been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed 
payments. The moratorium expires at midnight.

   Tensions mounted late Friday as it became clear there was no resolution in 
sight. Hours before the ban was set to expire, Biden called on local 
governments to "take all possible steps" to immediately disburse the funds. 
Evictions could begin as soon as Monday.

   "There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to 
landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic," Biden said in 
a statement.

   "Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we 
prevent every eviction we can," he said.

   The stunning outcome, as the White House and Congress each expected the 
other to act, exposed a rare divide between the president and his allies on 
Capitol Hill -- one that could have lasting impact as the nation's renters face 
widespread evictions.

   Biden set off the scramble by announcing he would allow the eviction ban to 
expire instead of challenging a recent Supreme Court ruling signaling this 
would be the last deadline. He called on Congress on Thursday to swiftly pass 
legislation to extend the date.

   Racing to respond Friday, Democrats strained to rally the votes. House 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored colleagues to pass legislation extending the 
deadline, calling it a "moral imperative," to protect renters and also the 
landlords who are owed compensation.

   Congress must "meet the needs of the American people: both the families 
unable to make rent and those to whom the rent is to be paid," she said in an 
overnight letter late Thursday.

   But after hours of behind-the-scenes wrangling throughout the day, 
Democratic lawmakers had questions and could not muster support to extend the 
ban even a few months. House Republicans objected to an attempt to simply 
approve an extension by consent, without a formal vote. The Senate may try 
again Saturday.

   Democratic lawmakers were livid at the prospect of evictions in the middle 
of a surging pandemic.

   "Housing is a primary social indicator of health, in and of itself, even 
absent COVID," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. "A mass eviction in 
the United States does represent a public health crisis unto itself."

   Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the Financial Services Committee chair who 
wrote the emergency bill, said House leaders should have held the vote, even if 
it failed, to show Americans they were trying to solve the problem.

   "Is it emergency enough that you're going to stop families from being put on 
the street?" Waters testified at a hearing Friday morning urging her colleagues 
to act. "What the hell is going to happen to these children?"

   But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on another 
panel handling the issue, said the Democrats' bill was rushed.

   "This is not the way to legislate," she said.

   The ban was initially put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by 
people put out on the streets and into shelters.

   Congress pushed nearly $47 billion to the states earlier in the COVID-19 
crisis to shore up landlords and renters as workplaces shut down and many 
people were suddenly out of work.

   But lawmakers said state governments have been slow to distribute the money. 
On Friday, they said only some $3 billion has been spent.

   By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their 
rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of July 
5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next 
two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey.

   Some places are likely to see spikes in evictions starting Monday, while 
other jurisdictions will see an increase in court filings that will lead to 
evictions over several months.

   Biden said Thursday that the administration's hands are tied after the 
Supreme Court signaled the moratorium would only be extended until the end of 
the month.

   At the White House, deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the 
administration backs the congressional effort "to extend the eviction 
moratorium to protect these vulnerable renters and their families."

   The White House has been clear that Biden would have liked to extend the 
federal eviction moratorium because of the spread of the highly contagious 
delta variant of the coronavirus. But there were also concerns that challenging 
the court could lead to a ruling restricting the administration's ability to 
respond to future public health crises.

   The administration is trying to keep renters in place through other means. 
It released more than $1.5 billion in rental assistance in June, which helped 
nearly 300,000 households. Biden on Thursday asked the departments of Housing 
and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs to extend their 
eviction moratoriums on households living in federally insured, single-family 
homes. In a statement late Friday, the agencies announced an extension of the 
foreclosure-related ban through the end of September.

   On a 5-4 vote last month, the Supreme Court allowed the broad eviction ban 
to continue through the end of July. One of those in the majority, Justice 
Brett Kavanaugh, made clear he would block any additional extensions unless 
there was "clear and specific congressional authorization."

   Aides to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Sherrod 
Brown, D-Ohio, the chair of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban 
Affairs, said the two were working on legislation to extend the moratorium and 
were asking Republicans not to block it.

   "The public health necessity of extended protections for renters is 
obvious," said Diane Yentel, executive director of the National Low Income 
Housing Coalition. "If federal court cases made a broad extension impossible, 
the Biden administration should implement all possible alternatives, including 
a more limited moratorium on federally backed properties."

   Landlords, who have opposed the moratorium and challenged it repeatedly in 
court, are against any extension. They, too, are arguing for speeding up the 
distribution of rental assistance.

   The National Apartment Association and several others this week filed a 
federal lawsuit asking for $26 billion in damages because of the impact of the 

   "Any extension of the eviction moratorium equates to an unfunded government 
mandate that forces housing providers to deliver a costly service without 
compensation and saddles renters with insurmountable debt," association 
president and CEO Bob Pinnegar said, adding that the current crisis highlights 
a need for more affordable housing.

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