Millions of Americans could soon find themselves homeless, as a nationwide ban on evictions expired on Saturday against a backdrop of surging coronavirus cases and political fingerpointing.
With billions in government funds meant to help renters still untapped, President Joe Biden last week urged Congress to extend the 11-month-old moratorium after a recent court ruling meant the White House could not do so.
But Republicans balked at Democratic efforts to extend the eviction ban through mid-October, and the House of Representatives adjourned for its summer vacation Friday without renewing it.
Several left-wing Democrats spent the night outside the Capitol in protest — calling out their colleagues over the failure to act.
“We slept at the Capitol last night to ask them to come back and do their jobs. Today’s their last chance,” tweeted Congresswoman Cori Bush, who has herself experienced homelessness and was joined by fellow progressives Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley
Unlike other pandemic-related aid distributed from Washington, such as stimulus checks, states, counties, and cities were responsible for building programs from the ground up to dole out assistance earmarked for renters.
As of June, the Treasury Department said that only $3 billion in aid had reached households out of the $25 billion sent to states and localities in early February, less than three weeks after Biden took office.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered the eviction moratorium in September 2020, as the world’s largest economy lost over 20 million jobs amid the pandemic shutdowns. The CDC feared homelessness would boost coronavirus infections.
Although more than half of those jobs were since recovered, many families still have not caught up on missed rent payments.
The Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse survey showed that of 51 million renters surveyed, 7.4 million were behind on rent and nearly half of those said they risked being evicted in the next two months.
According to a study by the Jain Family Institute, nearly 80 percent of households that are behind on their rent as of early July lived in Covid hot spots.
The CDC eviction moratorium and other protections prevented an estimated 2.2 million eviction filings since March 2020, said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.