With the return of the moratorium on evictions, officials rush to distribute aid

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The reinstatement of the federal moratorium on evictions Tuesday was a relief for progressives, but for White House officials it was just the start of a 60-day sprint to distribute billions in rental aid, in a nerve-racking race. which could be stopped by the courts at any time.

President Biden’s decision to implement a new freeze to replace the moratorium that expired on Saturday was a risky strategy meant to reset the legal clock by creating a new initiative that has yet to be challenged judicial by the owners.

But while most key officials in the administration approved the tactic after legislative efforts to extend the freeze failed, some in the administration believed such an effort could undermine the authority of the administration. to take action in future health emergencies.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday acknowledged the legal fragility of the new extension, which came after a June Supreme Court ruling in which Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh issued an explicit warning to the administration not to extend the moratorium beyond July. 31 without the approval of Congress.

“We don’t control the courts, we don’t know what they will do,” Psaki told reporters at the White House.

But the move, she added, was necessary – and represented Mr Biden’s message to tenants “that he shares their concern” and “wants tenants to be able to stay in their homes.”

The new eviction ban signed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due to expire on October 3 and is more targeted than the first, limited to areas facing significant threats from the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

But it will still cover around 90 percent of renters nationwide. And one of its main goals is to gain more time to set up the struggling emergency rental assistance program – which has so far allocated just $ 3 billion of the $ 47 billion. dollars allocated by Congress to pay rent arrears accumulated during the pandemic.

But the effectiveness of the massive program, which aims to prevent the eviction of millions of tenants, ultimately rests on the efforts of local authorities and removing bureaucratic hurdles that often boil down to the details, like ensuring that state aid applications are easy to complete.

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department released a series of sample claim forms, based on simplified documents used in Virginia and other states, intended to speed up the pace of payments.

Landlords and conservatives opposed the decision to extend the ban, arguing it violated constitutional property rights and denied landlords access to their primary mechanism for dealing with tenants who won’t pay rent or will not follow the rules.

“The sad reality for many small landlords whose obligations continued throughout the pandemic while rents were not collected is that they may never collect overdue amounts from tenants at home. the test of judgment, “said Joel Zinberg, senior researcher at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington conservative. tank, said in an email.

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