Pelosi Says House May Look at Ways to Speed Aid for Renters
(Bloomberg) -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated the House will look at potential legislation to accelerate aid to renters after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the Biden administration’s pandemic-related moratorium on evictions, but offered no specific plan or timetable for action.
A group of progressive Democrats is urging Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to work toward passing legislation that would extend the eviction moratorium. Pelosi, though, cited work by Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters to find ways to speed up distribution of aid for renters and landlords that Congress has already appropriated.
“Families must be protected during the pandemic, and we will explore every possible solution,” Pelosi wrote in an open letter to fellow House Democrats. She called the court ruling “arbitrary and cruel.”
Only $5.1 billion of the $46.5 billion appropriated by Congress to prevent evictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic has been disbursed despite ramped-up efforts from the Biden administration to expedite payments., according figures released this week by the U.S. Treasury Department.
A last-minute bid by Pelosi to extend an eviction moratorium collapsed at the end of July for a lack of votes. The Biden administration then extended it administratively via the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite doubts about whether it would stand up to Supreme Court scrutiny. Late Thursday the high court ruled that the CDC lacked authority to impose the moratorium under the decades-old federal law the agency was invoking.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted after the court ruling that Congress “must act immediately to stop a wave of evictions that will devastate millions of families.”
A group of House progressives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts sent a letter Friday to Pelosi and Schumer asking the “to act with the urgency this moment demands and include an ambitious legislative solution to extend the eviction moratorium in a must-pass legislative vehicle.” More than 60 House lawmakers signed it.
It’s not clear there would be enough support among Democrats to pass a moratorium extension and there’s little chance such a measure would gain enough Republican votes in the Senate to advance in the chamber.
Waters said she’s working on a legislation to ensure renters and landlords can independently apply for emergency rental assistance, “and that the program works with less bureaucracy and red tape.”
Republicans also have focused on revising existing programs to speed up distribution of aid. Representative Patrick McHenry, the ranking Republican on the Financial Services Committee, has proposed legislation to consolidate existing emergency rental-assistance programs and give states and local governments more time to spend the money.
Although Congress has approved billions in rent relief funding since December, state programs to distribute that money have been mired in bureaucracy and miscommunication, a growing frustration for tenants and landlords alike.
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