WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Thursday that it would extend the temporary bans on evictions and foreclosures for another month as the country continues to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement comes as some states have struggled to spend the $21.5 billion in emergency rental aid included in the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, allowing states an additional month to work through a crush of applications and distribute the money before the funds expire.
The pause on evictions and foreclosures for federally backed mortgages were set to expire at the end of June, and President Joe Biden has faced pressure from Democrats and housing advocates to protect renters and vulnerable homeowners.
The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued the extension to the eviction ban, made clear that July would be the "final" month of the benefit.
The departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and Agriculture said they would continue to allow homeowners who have not yet taken advantage of mortgage forbearance to enter into Covid-related forbearance programs through Sept. 30. The agencies will make an additional announcement in July "to offer borrowers payment reduction options that will enable more homeowners to stay in their homes," the White House said.
An administration official said that while the economy is beginning to pick up again, the CDC's extension on the eviction ban underscored the "urgency" for state and local governments to get the rental aid to tenants who need it.
The White House said the Treasury Department would work with states to help them rapidly distribute the money and would issue new guidelines making clear that the money could be used to avoid eviction. The Treasury Department is also encouraging states to make the application process more accessible so that language or documentation barriers do not keep eligible families from benefiting from the assistance.
An official said the delivery of rental assistance was ramping up, but the administration would be pouring its efforts into accelerating the pace before the fall, when the Treasury Department is statutorily required to reallocate funding from grantees who fail to meet the spending deadline.
"We're throwing everything at this," the official said.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who heads the Justice Department's civil rights division, also sent a letter to state and local courts encouraging them to require landlords to apply for rental assistance before filing for evictions, among other measures.
Gupta told the state court officials that 6 million renters are behind on their payments, and more than 40 percent of them say they expect to be evicted within the next two months. Women, particularly Black and Latina women, are evicted at higher rates, she said.
"Losing one’s home can have catastrophic economic and psychological effects. The entire legal community … has an obligation to do what it can to ensure that each and every individual has meaningful and equal access to justice before facing such consequences," she wrote.
Biden will also host a summit aimed at developing "locally tailored solutions that incentivize the use of emergency rental assistance and keep tenants stably housed, while also providing a model for the coordination required in communities across the country to fully address the eviction crisis," the White House said.
The prohibition on evicting renters was first put in place by the CDC in September, with public health officials arguing it was needed to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in congregate settings, like homeless shelters. Biden, shortly after taking office in January, extended the moratorium through the end of March and again extended it through June.
Biden has also extended the foreclosure moratorium twice before, signing an executive action on his first day in office that pushed the expiration date to the end of March and later extending it again to June.