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Millions of Americans at risk of losing homes as virus cases spike

Evictions would come as the Delta variant has taken hold

SAMAA | - Posted: Jul 31, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Jul 31, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago

Photo: AFP/FILE

Millions of Americans could find themselves homeless starting Sunday when a nationwide ban on evictions expires, even as billions in government funds meant to help them go untapped.

The wave of evictions would come as the fast-spreading Delta variant has taken hold in the country and rental housing is in high demand in the hot real estate market.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Congress to extend the 11-month-old eviction moratorium, after a recent Supreme Court ruling meant the White House could not extend the measure through September as intended.

Democratic leaders in Congress were pushing for an extension, but it was unclear if they had the votes, even among moderates in their own party, to prevent the ban from expiring.

Efforts stalled on Friday in the House after a move to pass the extension was unsuccessful, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying in a statement, that “not a single Republican would support this measure.”

The day before, she had said called the extension “a moral imperative.”

She also called on governors and local officials “to take whatever steps are necessary to distribute the rental assistance that Congress already allocated.” 

Unlike other pandemic-related aid that was distributed from Washington, such as stimulus checks, it was states, counties and cities that were responsible for building programs from the ground up to dole out assistance earmarked for renters.

The Treasury Department said that as of June, only $3 billion in aid had reached households out of the $25 billion sent to states and localities in early February, less than three weeks after Biden took office.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered the eviction moratorium in September 2020, as the world’s largest economy lost over 20 million jobs amid the pandemic shutdowns. The CDC feared increasing homelessness would boost coronavirus infections.

Although more than half of those lost jobs were recovered as businesses were able to reopen, many families still have not caught up on missed rent payments.

The Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse survey through the first week of July showed that of 51 million renters surveyed, 7.4 million were behind on their rent and nearly half of those said they were at risk of being evicted in the next two months.

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