Biden Team Urges States to Quickly Distribute Rental Aid

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other top Biden administration officials urged governors and mayors across the country to hasten distribution of rental assistance after the Supreme Court struck down a federal coronavirus eviction moratorium benefiting most renters.

“We are writing to request your urgent help preventing unnecessary evictions during the pandemic,” they said in a letter Friday. “Our bottom line is this: No one should be evicted before they have the chance to apply for rental assistance, and no eviction should move forward until that application has been processed.” 

The White House is also asking state and local leaders to enact eviction moratoriums of their own for the remainder of the pandemic. Six states and the District of Columbia have such programs already in place, while other states prohibit or pause eviction proceedings if tenants have applied for federal rental assistance.

A state or local moratorium would have the same impact of “preventing people from being kicked out of their homes,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier Friday.

The Supreme Court said late Thursday that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacked authority to impose the moratorium under the decades-old federal law the agency was invoking, and that the program was causing landlords “irreparable harm.” It was the second time the high court struck down a CDC ban on evictions this year.

Some 2 million households owe more than $15 billion in rent, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. A coronavirus relief bill passed earlier this year included $46.5 billion in emergency assistance, but states and local governments have been slow to distribute that money. The Treasury Department in recent days announced it was further easing requirements for income documentation and assistance applications in hopes of more quickly distributing the funds.

The administration is working to make the application rules easier to follow, Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on Bloomberg Television Friday.

“We’ve got to make sure that gets out much more quickly,” he said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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