By David Shepardson and Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration on Thursday said it was extending the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 residential eviction moratorium until July 31 but said it would not grant further extensions.
Reuters first reported the expected one-month extension on Tuesday. The national ban on residential evictions was first implemented last September and was extended in March until June 30. On Thursday, the CDC confirmed it was extending it to July 31, saying in a statement “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”
It added “the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health. Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The White House said it was taking other steps to try to assist struggling renters and homeowners.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has also extended the foreclosure moratorium for mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac until July 31.
The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday urged state courts to adopt strategies that will prevent families who are struggling to pay rent from being evicted from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vanita Gupta, the Justice Department’s No. 3 official, wrote in a letter to state court administrators that local courts can take steps on their own to help tenants while still protecting landlords’ rights.
The Treasury Department told states that they can use federal funds to help avoid evictions through diversion plans, which emphasize housing stability services and emergency rental assistance.
“Eviction diversion strategies like these encourage landlords and tenants to resolve disputes without formal adjudication and increase the chance that tenants can stay in their homes,” Gupta wrote.
The White House will hold a summit on immediate eviction prevention plans attended by members of the American Bar Association and Legal Services Corporation “to develop community-specific solutions to provide vulnerable families access to counsel, divert evictions, and connect renters and landlords to available resources.”
On Tuesday, a group of 44 U.S. lawmakers had called for the extension, citing an estimate that about “6 million renter households are behind on their rent and at risk of eviction.”
The Supreme Court has yet to act on a petition by landlord groups which argued the CDC exceeded its authority when it halted evictions to help renters during the pandemic. The CDC imposed the ban to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic.
Lawyers for the landlord groups cited the Reuters story Wednesday reporting the expected extension in asking the Supreme Court to take immediate action to halt the ban.
The landlords said earlier that property owners “have been losing over $13 billion every month under the moratorium.” One group estimated that 40 million Americans were behind on rent in January, with $70 billion of missed payments by the end of 2020.
The moratorium covers renters who expected to earn less than $99,000 a year, or $198,000 for joint filers, or who reported no income, or received stimulus checks.
Renters also had to swear they were doing their best to make partial rent payments, and that evictions would likely leave them homeless or force them into “shared” living quarters.
Congress has approved $47 billion in relief for renters but much of that money has not yet been distributed. Senate Banking Committee chairman Sherrod Brown said it was time “to remove unnecessary red tape and make sure that the funds Congress provided to help families stay in their homes get out to them quickly.”
(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Aurora Ellis and Philippa Fletcher)