Newly inaugurated President Joe Biden on Wednesday extended moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that millions of Americans can stay in their homes during the global health crisis.
Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki announced Wednesday evening that the president will work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend the federal eviction moratorium though March 31. Additionally, he will work with the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development to extend the foreclosure moratoriums through March 31.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an almost unprecedented housing affordability crisis,” Psaki said during a White House briefing. Biden “took immediate action to confront the crisis and asked relevant agencies to extend nationwide moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a Wednesday night statement that she was extending the moratoriums as a “protective public health measure.”
“Despite extensive mitigation efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread in America at a concerning pace,” Walensky said. “We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings ― like shelters ― where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold.”
Since the coronavirus hit the U.S. last year, millions of Americans have been on the brink of homelessness as unemployment skyrocketed to historic levels. Somewhere between 12 million and 17 million households — or up to 40 million people — have little or no confidence that they can pay their upcoming rent and avoid eviction if they don’t receive government relief, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Renters and homeowners facing eviction have been covered by a hodgepodge of government assistance, but at times it hasn’t been enough. There have been multiple eviction and foreclosure moratoriums on the local, state and federal levels, including the moratorium in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed in March and the subsequent CDC moratorium that Congress extended in December to Jan. 31.
Biden’s extension of the current federal moratorium ensures that people are not forced out of their homes and into crowded shelters or onto the streets ― situations that could further spread COVID-19 and could have deadly consequences.
Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, applauded Biden for extending the moratorium but cautioned there are still renters being evicted despite the freeze on evictions.
“Extending the moratorium is important but, on its own, is insufficient to protect renters during the pandemic,” she told HuffPost. “The existing moratorium is flawed and many tenants are being evicted despite its protections. No federal agency is enforcing the order’s steep penalties for unlawful evictions. President Biden and the CDC Director must not only extend, but also strengthen and enforce the moratorium and they must do so with all due haste.”
Research shows that moratoriums on rent and mortgages literally save lives. A study published in November found that ending moratoriums between March and September led to nearly 434,000 excess coronavirus cases and nearly 11,000 additional deaths across 27 states.
The eviction crisis is disproportionately affecting people of color and especially women of color. Nawaal Walker, a single mother of seven facing eviction, described to HuffPost in December how difficult it’s been for her and her family since COVID-19 hit and spoke about the uncertainty that lies ahead.
“Everything I’ve done to build myself up has now crumbled back down to the ground,” Walker said. “I feel like nothing right now. I really do.”