Until the last week of July, Mr. Biden and his team had accepted that a moratorium on evictions, which was first imposed last September and had already been extended three times, would have to end for good as planned on July 31 given a recent Supreme Court ruling. While the June ruling permitted the ban to continue to its scheduled end date, it strongly suggested that five of the nine justices were inclined to strike it down past that time if Congress did not enact a new law explicitly authorizing an extension.
Instead, throughout July, the administration tried to speed up disbursement of about $47 billion in rental assistance that Congress had approved to help people pay to stay in their homes. The intention was that the money would allow renters to pay their landlords until the pandemic passed, making everyone whole.
But logistical issues and concerns about potential fraud kept much of the money from flowing. Some cities required overly complicated application forms. Many renters did not hear about the program and simply didn’t sign up. In some states, the money remained frozen because of concerns about giving funds to people who didn’t really need it. The White House, racing to disburse as much cash as possible before the freeze expired, blamed the local governments.
On July 21, Treasury disclosed just $3 billion out of $46 billion had been deployed by the states and cities that got the money.
“It is a national shame,” Susan Rice, the director of the Domestic Policy Council, said in an interview this week, “that our state and local entities have not taken advantage of this substantial investment from Congress to prevent exactly what we are concerned about.”
Activists had been warning for weeks that renters were at high risk for being hurt once the moratorium expired, but while progressives were grumbling about the issue, it was at best a low roar from Capitol Hill.
Last Thursday, with just 48 hours to go until the moratorium expired, the White House issued a statement suggesting that Congress — and Ms. Pelosi — should enact a new eviction moratorium “without delay.” That infuriated Democrats, including Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, who had personally been evicted three times and began mobilizing a very public display of her disapproval.