Statement by Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Eviction Prevention Efforts

Posted By: Michael Fazio, CAS GIAA Resources, News,

President Biden is taking further action to prevent Americans from experiencing the heartbreak of eviction. Thanks to State eviction moratoria, almost 33% of the country will be spared evictions for the rest of this month. But in the remaining States, action is needed.

Thanks to the bipartisan COVID relief act Congress passed in December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Congress and the Biden Administration enacted in March 2021, State and local governments long ago received Emergency Rental Assistance—a $46.5 billion plan to protect millions of Americans facing deep rental debt and potential eviction during the pandemic. Some cities and States have demonstrated their ability to release these funds efficiently to tenants and landlords in need. But even though funds began to be distributed in February by the Biden Administration, too many States and cities have been too slow to act.

As the Administration made clear last week, 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. 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.

Last week the Administration also made clear that given the spread of the Delta variant among those Americans most likely to face eviction and lacking vaccinations, the President would have strongly supported a decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further extend its eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court declared on June 29th that the CDC could not grant such an extension without “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation).”

Given the rising urgency of containing the spread of the Delta variant, on Sunday, the President asked the CDC to consider once again the possibility of executive action. He raised the prospect of a new, 30-day eviction moratorium—focused on counties with High or Substantial case rates—to protect renters. This temporary measure would spur States and localities to ramp up Emergency Rental Assistance programs to full speed this month, giving every landlord the opportunity to collect the rent they are owed and ensuring no eligible family gets evicted.

To date, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her team have been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium. Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections.

In the meantime, the President will continue to do everything in his power to help renters from eviction. The Administration has provided States and local governments with the flexibility to get funds out efficiently without burdensome documentation; to use funds to help those who are homeless or in need of new housing; and to use American Rescue Plan State and local funds to expand any effort to help those whose housing is at risk due to the pandemic.

Today, the President is taking these additional measures:

  • Directing his White House policy, implementation, and legal teams to assemble all Federal agencies to reexamine whether there are any other authorities to take additional actions to stop evictions.
  • Calling on States and localities to extend or put in place evictions moratoria for at the least the next two months. Among those behind on their rent, 1 in 3 renters live in States that have already extended protections against evictions due to State eviction moratoria—which are not covered by the Supreme Court’s ruling. The rest of the States should follow course by also extending eviction moratoria.
  • Calling on State and local courts to heed the call of the Justice Department to pause eviction proceedings until tenants and landlords can first seek to access Emergency Rental Assistance—making evictions a last, not first—resort.
  • Directing his Cabinet Departments to use their powers to prevent evictions and tell landlords: If your government is backing your mortgage or providing you housing tax relief, you should not be choosing eviction over the Emergency Rental Assistance we have provided to make you whole and keep your tenants and their families safely housed.
  • Challenging every landlord to hold off on evictions for the next 30 days and instead seek out the Emergency Rental Assistance Congress and the Administration meant for them.
  • Challenging utilities providers to work with State and local governments to access Emergency Rental Assistance and other resources made available by Congress and the Administration to avoid cutting off services for those behind in payments due to the pandemic and at risk of eviction.
  • Directing the Treasury Department to make clear that States and localities can use emergency housing and State and local relief to support eviction prevention efforts by courts, legal aid, and housing counselors, as well as to give incentives to landlords who cooperate in these efforts by offering housing to those who have been evicted or are homeless, or by offering leases to the most hard-pressed tenants at a length that ensures true housing stability.
  • At the request of Congressional leadership, directing the White House, Treasury Department, and other relevant Federal agencies to continue examining why State and local governments have failed to distribute rental assistance Congress has provided, and explore any authorities the Federal government has to press the States and localities to make these distributions.

The Administration remains deeply committed to doing everything in its power to keep people safely and securely housed, which is essential to the health, well-being, and dignity of us all.