Biden administration details new steps to prevent evictions as moratorium faces Supreme Court

Biden administration details new steps to prevent evictions as moratorium faces Supreme Court
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The Biden administration is taking new steps to prevent evictions as the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the White House and Department of Treasury announced Wednesday.

The new actions come as the Supreme Court could rule as soon as Wednesday on a request by landlords that it block the administration’s new eviction moratorium.

The Department of Treasury is “providing even more explicit permission for grantees to utilize self-attestation without further documentation in order to speed the delivery of assistance to households in need during the public health emergency,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

The White House added, “These policies are meant to accelerate assistance to the thousands of applicants who are in the pipeline in many state and local programs, on top of those who have already received aid through the end of July.”

Treasury outlined seven specific steps Wednesday meant to expedite the assistance process and help processing delays, including a broader policy for self-attestation for documenting eligibility for assistance, new guidelines for providing estimate bulk payments to landlords and utility providers, guidelines for state and local programs to engage with non-profit organizations, and guidance on past debts for previous addresses.

The White House also touted an “all-of-government approach” to prevent evictions, including steps with the US Department of Agriculture to collaborate with owners of rental units in USDA-backed properties, assistance for tenants in public housing through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, support for at-risk veterans through government programs and its efforts to spread awareness of other federal assistance programs.

An estimated 11.4 million American adults are currently behind on their rent, per an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tracking the impact of the pandemic.

Earlier this month, after the previous eviction freeze expired July 31, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new, more targeted eviction moratorium set to expire on October 3 after congressional efforts to extend it failed. The new ban applies to areas of the country with high or substantial transmission of Covid-19.

At the time, Biden openly acknowledged the move would likely face legal scrutiny, and said the time it takes for the court process to unfold will allow for emergency rental assistance to reach troubled tenants.

“At a minimum, by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are in fact behind in the rent and don’t have the money,” Biden said.

That new moratorium was challenged in court by landlords and real estate companies almost immediately.

And last Friday, a group of landlords filed a request with Chief Justice John Roberts to block the ban. Earlier that day, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit left in place a previous court order that has allowed the moratorium to continue. A ruling is expected soon.

News of the latest eviction moratorium just days after the previous one had expired was “whiplash” for landlords, according to Greg Brown, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Apartment Association, an industry group of property owners.

“We were disappointed to see we were going back to it after we had agreed that it was ending,” he said. “Now we have a whole new metric and landlords are asking how they follow this and trying to figure out how to comply.”

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