Biden administration urges localities to block evictions after court ruling

·3-min read
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court is asked to preserve CDC's residential eviction moratorium

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration has written to state and local officials urging that they block unnecessary residential evictions, after the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ended a federal moratorium aimed at keeping people housed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A copy of the letter was seen by Reuters on Friday.

"Our bottom line is this: No one should be evicted before they have the chance to apply for rental assistance, and no eviction should move forward until that application has been processed," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge and Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote to state governors, mayors and others.

On Thursday, the nation's top court granted https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-supreme-court-ends-federal-residential-eviction-moratorium-2021-08-27 a request by a coalition of landlords and real estate trade groups to lift the moratorium by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was to have run until Oct. 3, saying it was up to Congress to act.

After the court order, over 60 Democrats in the House of Representatives pushed for congressional leaders to take action, writing a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to revive the national eviction moratorium for the rest of the pandemic.

"We implore you to act with the highest levels of urgency to advance a permanent legislative solution in a must-pass legislative vehicle in order to extend the life-saving federal eviction moratorium for the duration of the deadly global health crisis," the lawmakers' letter to Pelosi and Schumer said.

Signatories included Representative Cori Bush, who slept on the Capitol steps earlier this summer to protest a previous lapse in the federal pandemic eviction moratorium and the failure of a Democratic-majority Congress to do anything about it.

Lawmakers so far have not passed any bills directly addressing evictions, but Pelosi on Friday said her chamber "is assessing possible legislative remedies."

Congress approved $46 billion in rental assistance earlier in the pandemic, but the money has been slow to get to those who need it, with just $3 billion issued through June for rent, utilities and related expenses, according to U.S. Treasury data.

House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters is "examining the most effective way to expedite the flow of funding of rental assistance by states and localities," Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic House members on Friday.

The Biden administration letter to state and local authorities suggested they enact their own eviction moratoriums, noting that six states and the District of Columbia have already done so.

It said state and local courts should also require landlords to apply for rental assistance that was approved in COVID-19 legislation earlier this year before commencing eviction proceedings. The letter said the Treasury Department is working with state and local governments to get the aid "out the door and into the hands of renters and landlords."

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Susan Cornwell; writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Tim Ahmann, Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

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