WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has turned down President Joe Biden’s request for a new scaled-down pandemic-related moratorium on residential evictions, citing a lack of legal authority to take the action, the White House said on Monday.
The previous moratorium, which protected millions of Americans behind on their rent from being tossed out of houses and apartments, expired at midnight on Saturday, with Congress failing to renew it as Biden had asked. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier on Monday pressed Biden to have his administration renew the ban without congressional action.
Biden had asked the CDC to target a new moratorium on counties with higher COVID-19 case rates, the White House said.
White House officials said Biden has not given up as he asked officials to look at any potential authority to reinstate
“The president has not given up the option of legal action,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “He has asked his team to kick the tires … and look at every authority, every option we have to keep more people in their homes.”
She noted earlier that the CDC has “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.”
A Supreme Court opinion last month indicated that legislative approval would be required to impose a new moratorium.
The CDC declined to comment Monday on the White House statement.
Biden also called on states and localities to extend or put in place eviction bans for at the least the next two months, Psaki said. The White House said among those behind on their rent, a third live in states that have extended their own protections against evictions.
The president on Thursday urged Congress to extend the moratorium, noting the Supreme Court’s view on the matter. House Democrats tried on Friday to advance legislation to extend the moratorium to Oct. 18, but a Republican congressman blocked their bid to pass the measure by unanimous consent.
In a letter to fellow House Democrats, Pelosi urged Biden’s administration to renew the moratorium without congressional action. Pelosi told lawmakers such an extension would provide more time to speed distribution of $46.5 billion already allocated by Congress for rental relief. Only about $3 billion of that sum has been distributed.
Pelosi praised the White House effort to try to find legal authority by the CDC or other authorities to extend the moratorium. “For the good of families on the verge of eviction, my Democratic House colleagues and I are hopeful that this initiative to extend the moratorium will be successful as soon as possible,” Pelosi said.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to brief lawmakers on the eviction mitigation funds on Tuesday, Pelosi said.
More than 15 million people in 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind on rental payments, according to a study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, collectively owing more than $20 billion to landlords.
Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty said the moratorium’s end means “thousands of Black families and children could lose the roof over their heads at a time when the deadly pandemic is surging once again, and their lives are in disorder due to the pandemic.”
Landlord groups have opposed the moratorium, which the CDC implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic. The CDC first issued it in September 2020 after a prior moratorium approved by Congress expired. The agency most recently extended it in June for a month before it finally expired at midnight on Saturday.
The National Apartment Association, with 82,600 members that collectively manage more than 9.7 million rental units, last week sued the U.S. government seeking billions of dollars in unpaid rent due to the moratorium.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis)