Biden Tells CDC to Consider Eviction Moratorium Options After Congress Fails to Act

U.S. President Joe Biden is trying to find a way to extend a ban on evictions for people who have been unable to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic, after the COVID-19 moratorium lapsed over the weekend and Congress failed to pass an extension.

Biden said he's consulted with constitutional scholars about whether executive action would "pass muster."

"I told the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to go back and consider what options may be available," Biden told reporters Tuesday. "The CDC will announce that and any details of how it works."

Biden said he's hoping that it will be a new moratorium that will cover about 90 percent of renters.

Biden's administration spent days arguing that it didn't have the authority to extend the moratorium and that Congress would need to act.

But U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have been pressing on the White House to reinstate the moratorium after Congress failed to pass its own version of the extension, allowing it to expire.

"House Democrats stand ready to work with the Administration as they search for ways to extend the moratorium and as they urge states and localities to spend the $46.5 billion that Congress allocated," Pelosi said in a statement ahead of Biden's announcement. "Our sole focus must be keeping people housed and we must do so with the urgency this moment deserves."

A more contagious variant of the novel coronavirus has created a new surge in cases among vulnerable and unvaccinated populations.

The eviction moratorium initially was put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a public health measure to combat the pandemic and slow the virus' spread. After the eviction ban was challenged in a lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that it could remain in place through Saturday. But the Biden administration cited the high court's order as an indication that Congress would need to act for it to go beyond that.

U.S. House leaders spent much of Friday trying to hash out an extension agreement—first for one through December and then shifting to one that would go to mid-October—before negotiations ultimately fizzled. The chamber is now out of session for the regularly scheduled August recess, but members have been put on notice to be prepared to possibly return to the Capitol.

Officials have pointed to the rental assistance funds that lawmakers tucked into a COVID-19 relief package earlier this year as a way to prevent evictions, but of the $46 billion Congress allocated to state and local governments, officials estimate just $3 billion has gone out.

Several state and local governments, including California, the District of Columbia and New Jersey, have instituted their own eviction moratoriums that remain in effect. The Biden administration estimated that about a third of people who would be affected by the federal ban's expiration would still be covered under those local moratoriums.

Joe Biden extends eviction moratorium
President Joe Biden said he's hoping that the CDC will come up with a new eviction moratorium that will cover about 90 percent of renters. Biden speaks at the White House on August 3, during a meeting with Latino community leaders to discuss his economic agenda, immigration reform and the need to protect the right to vote. JIM WATSON / AFP/Getty Images