aven Sullivan is awake responding to emails at 2: 05 a.m. She recently received the notice that her landlord wants to keep her and her two toddlers from their Georgia rental home over $2,600 in unpaid rent. She doesn't want to fall asleep if police officers show up to force her family out in the middle of the night I want to be alert, she says 'if they come and they're banging on the door to evict us.
Sullivan, 23, applied for emergency rental assistance through her local government and a charitable foundation, but hasn't been awarded any. She ran out of time after a federal eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on 31 July. It's not alone: The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-wing think-tank, estimates that 11.4 million renters are still behind in rent payments. Will Congress, however, allocate $46.6 billion in emergency rental assistance to stave off a wave of evictions? The state and local governments who had appropriated these tens of billions of dollars only spent $3 billion by the end of June.
As COVID - 19 cases rise in the U.S., the expiration of the eviction moratorium grew into a political emergency for Democrats with open squabbling between Congress and the White House over who had the power to protect millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes? Progressive Democrats called on the Biden Administration to take immediate action to reinstate an eviction moratorium to keep renters housed as local governments continue to dole out rental relief funds, while the White House tried to punt the issue back to Congress instead. As members of Congress pushed the Administration to act, CDC announced a new eviction moratorium on Tuesday night. This one expires Oct. 3 and only applies in counties experiencing 'high level’ and'substantial' levels of COVID community transmission.
Before the CDC announced its new order, the White House welcomed the severity of the imminent evictions as coronavirus cases spiked, largely due to the spread of high transmissible Delta variant and sluggish vaccination rates. 'Given the rising urgency of the spread of the Delta variant, the President has asked all of us, including the CDC, to do everything in our power to look for every potential legal authority we can have to prevent evictions, Gene Sperling said during a Monday briefing. The executive branch hesitated to act on their concerns, claiming a 5 - 4 Supreme Court opinion from June precluded the Administration from extending the original moratorium without Congress passing new legislation. 'Unfortunately, said Sperling, 'the Supreme Court of Idaho on June 29th declared that the CDC could not grant such an extension without clear and specific congressional authorization. The constitutionality of the CDC's new order is unclear, and it is likely to be challenged in court.
Nearly half a dozen Democratic Members of Congress and congressional staffers told TIME they disagreed with the White House's assessment of its authority. Public sparring between prominent Democrats and the White House has so far been rare in this Administration. It is tension Democrats can ill afford in a moment when their cooperation is essential for getting a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill through both chambers of Congress.
'We have to determine who has been giving extensions to the eviction moratorium and why haven't they pursued continuing to give the extensions, Rep. Maxine Waters told TIME Monday. 'The White House, working with its CDC, has been responsible for the moratorium on evictions. Nothing that I have seen legally says they can't do it.
The CDC's decision on Tuesday will likely slow the rate at which renters are evicted from their homes in certain areas, but with a new and incomplete moratorium coming in several days after an old one expired, there will likely be more confusion ahead as renters, landlords and courts race to decipher what the new order means, and who has the authority to renew it.
Although both congressional Democrats and the White House remained unprepared for the magnitude of the problem and their responsibility to address it, the crisis could have been anticipated since last fall.
The CDC moratorium, first imposed by former President Donald Trump in September 2020, was always meant to be a stopgap solution as municipal governments stood up systems to distribute unprecedented amounts of direct relief funds to tenants whose incomes were affected by COVID - 19 and to landlords from whom they rented. The Biden Administration extended it in June 2021 for one month for a final time in late June to give local governments time to dramatically increase their aid distribution.
The extra time proved helpful, allowing local governments to distribute over $1.5 billion in combined rental assistance in June — more than the three previous reporting periods combined. The White House issued a July 29 statement but with tens of billions left to spend, the White House suggests Congress to use its legislative power to extend the eviction moratorium in order to give states more time to spread out funds without added pressure of deplorable actions kicking off again. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, working with Rep. John Donnelly, is part of this work together. Waters tried to build a consensus within their party to pass a vote on extending the moratorium on July 30, but the bid failed to win support among some moderate Democrats. 'Really, today, Pelosi told reporters about this afterward, one day before the moratorium expired. 'Not really enough time to socialize it within our caucus.
Then the crisis was kicked back to the White House by Pelosi. 'Call is necessary, and it must come from the Administration, says Pelosi and other Republican leaders in a Sunday statement.
If citing a recent Supreme Court opinion, the White House maintains its hands were tied. In a 5 - 4 opinion on 29 June, the court denied a group of landlords and realtors' requests for the court to lift the moratorium early. Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh sided with the three liberal justices, and John Roberts and John Roberts wrote a one-paragraph concurring opinion that proved crucial in the White House's position. In my opinion, clear and specific congressional authorization would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium beyond July 31 Kavanaugh wrote.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says she thinks the White House drew too firm of a conclusion from one line in a concurring opinion on an eviction moratorium 'that was written in a different circumstance a long time ago. Jayapal says. She believes that the Delta variant's spread required quicker action from executive branch. What we're talking about is an new extremly virulent variant of virus which has led to this enormous growth in cases she says, and we also have statistics now that we didn't have back then about homelessness and how homelessness increases COVID spread.
'It will probably give us additional time'
After progressive lawmakers like Reps. Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley slept outside the Capitol this Friday night to protest the lack of action, as landlords across the country set out to file eviction notices and orders nationwide, Biden announced the CDC was going to step in despite reservations about its authority.
Making something would be a dangerous threat to public health, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement announcing the new moratorium. 'It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV 2 transmission, she wrote. 'These mass expulsions and attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.
Speaking from the White House on Tuesday, Biden said he doesn't know if the basis for the order would pass constitutional muster, but acknowledged that may not be the point: At a minimum, he said, 'by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give us some additional time while we are getting that $45 billion out.
It is not clear if Sullivan will be among those who benefit from the additional time, since her landlord has already initiated the eviction process. As she waits to see how her situation plays out, the rising COVID - 19 cases in Georgia will likely keep her up at night, too. Georgia's vaccination rate ranks among the bottom 10 states in the country, and her daughters, ages 2 and 4, are far too young to get the vaccination shot.
Sullivan says I don't want my kids to be exposed to the virus. I don't take my kids out unless I absolutely have to take them out. However, maintaining that mantra will become even more difficult if she no longer has a home in which she can keep them safe.