Eviction Moratorium: Where It Stands, What's Next?

The U.S. House is scrambling to extend ban on evictions for people who have been unable to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic as a crucial deadline looms that could threaten to push millions of people across the country out of their homes.

House leaders have spent much of Friday trying to get the votes needed for a temporary extension of the eviction moratorium before it expires Saturday. Lawmakers initially wanted to extend through December, but House leaders on Friday acknowledged they were trying to win votes by trimming the extension to October 18.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters she views the moratorium as "is a COVID initiative, related to the intensity of the issue."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously acted on its own to extend the ban, but landlords in several states challenged the order in court.

The CDC action argued as a public health measure to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. With a more contagious variant now on the rise, cases are beginning to surge again among vulnerable and unvaccinated populations.

In a letter to House colleagues Friday afternoon, Pelosi notified members leaders had backed off from pursuing an extension through December and would push for an extension through October 18 in an attempt at compromise.

"It is our hope that we could pass a bill extending the eviction moratorium to that date immediately," she wrote of the "reduced extension" plan, while still noting the CDC is the body with authority to extend the moratorium.

In a narrow 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court last month agreed to allow the ban to run through Saturday, but multiple justices indicated they believed Congress would have to authorize any further extension.

The White House has adopted that position, indicating that it has taken the Supreme Court decision as official word that an extension needs approval from Congress.

Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated that view on Friday, even as House leaders struggled to hash out a compromise to get the votes needed to extend the ban.

"The administration is going to work together with leaders in Congress on potential avenues to extend the eviction moratorium to protect these vulnerable renters and their families," Jean-Pierre told reporters. "We understand how critical that is how important it is."

In her earlier briefing with reporters, Pelosi lamented that much of the $46 billion that Congress has allocated to state and local government for rent relief hadn't been distributed. Officials estimate just $3 billion has gone out.

"The money's there, resting in localities and governor's offices across the country," she said. "So we would like the CDC to expand moratorium, that's where it can be done."

She argued that money should be taken as an assurance that the CDC can extend the eviction ban.

"Why should the renters be punished for the fact that the system did not put money in their pockets to pay the rent to the landlords?" she said.

Separately, the Department of Justice on Friday released guidance for state courts on "eviction diversion strategies to help families avoid the disruption and damage of evictions and assist landlords in collecting rent."

"A housing and evictions crisis is looming," Vanita Gupta, associate attorney general, wrote. "As federal and local eviction moratoria expire in the coming days, eviction filings are expected to spike.

She wrote courts could help tap into the federal dollars more quickly to prevent evictions and ensure landlords are paid.

"Even the simple act of giving families more time to apply for rental assistance can make a critical difference," she wrote. "For pending evictions, I urged courts to put cases on a slower track—perhaps a temporary postponement of 30 to 60 days—to allow rental assistance applications to be filed, processed, and paid out."

Several state and local governments, including California, the District of Columbia and New Jersey, have passed their own eviction moratoriums during the pandemic that would remain if the federal extension expires.

Federal eviction moratorium could expire soon
House leaders spent much of Friday trying to secure the votes needed for a temporary extension of the eviction moratorium before it expires Saturday. On the day that New York State's COVID-19 moratorium on rent expires, tenant rights activists hold a demonstration outside Civil Court where eviction cases are starting up again on March 1 in downtown Brooklyn, New York. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/getty Images