On his first official day in office — January 20, 2021 — President Biden signed 19 separate executive actions. One of them was a request to extend the federal moratorium on evictions which was enacted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, to prevent landlords from evicting anyone from their apartments for nonpayment of rent. In March […]
On his first official day in office — January 20, 2021 — President Biden signed 19 separate executive actions. One of them was a request to extend the federal moratorium on evictions which was enacted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, to prevent landlords from evicting anyone from their apartments for nonpayment of rent.
In March 2021, the CDC extended the suggested moratorium on evictions through the end of June. Then, once June arrived, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, decided to permit the moratorium to continue until the end of July but no further. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who voted with the majority, wrote in his opinion that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [had] exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium.” Moreover, he declared that “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.”
In compliance with the Court ruling, the CDC announced in June 2021 that its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, had “signed an extension [until July 31] to the eviction moratorium further preventing the eviction of tenants who are unable to make rental payments,” with the stipulation that “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”
The Biden administration was unhappy with the Court ruling and the CDC announcement. As White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
“In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Psaki added, “the president calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay.” She claimed that the evictions ban was “a critical backstop to prevent hard-pressed renters and their families who lost jobs or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic from being evicted for nonpayment of rent.”
House Democratic leaders hoped to rally enough support in Congress to extend the moratorium through the end of the year. In a joint statement, Democratic U.S. Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri, Jimmy Gomez of California, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts said: “This pandemic is not behind us, and our federal housing policies should reflect that stark reality. With the United States facing the most severe eviction crisis in its history, our local and state governments still need more time to distribute critical rental assistance to help keep a roof over the heads of our constituents.”
On July 30, House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters drafted an emergency bill calling for an extension of the moratorium until December 31, but several moderate Democrats were opposed to the idea.
On July 30 as well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the CDC should, in defiance of the Supreme Court decision, extend the eviction moratorium until October 18 without congressional action. “The CDC has the power to extend the eviction moratorium,” she tweeted on August 1. “As they double down on masks, why wouldn’t they extend the moratorium in light of delta variant?”
On August 1, the Biden administration asked the CDC to “consider once again” extending the moratorium by means of executive action. In response, the CDC said it lacked the legal authority to do so.
On August 2, two days after the federal moratorium on evictions had expired, the Biden administration urged landlords to refrain for 30 days from evicting tenants and to seek compensation in the form of federal emergency rental assistance. The administration also exhorted states and cities to enact their own policies to help renters stay in their homes.
On August 3, the Biden administration — in response to pressure from Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others in the Democratic Party’s far-left wing — announced that, notwithstanding the Supreme Court ruling, a short-term fix had been arranged to prevent millions of renters from being evicted through at least early October. The fix came in the form of a new 60-day CDC moratorium on residential evictions that would apply wherever there was a substantial or high COVID-19 community transmission rate – i.e., approximately 80% of all U.S. counties, where 90% of all Americans lived. “The emergence of the Delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads.”
In light of Biden’s disregard for the Supreme Court ruling, the constitutionality of the fix was questioned and seemed likely to draw a court challenge.