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U.S. renters face homelessness with end of eviction ban

Of 51 million renters surveyed, 7.4 million were behind on rent.

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WASHINGTON (AFP) — Millions of Americans could find themselves homeless starting Sunday as a nationwide ban on evictions expires, against a backdrop of surging coronavirus cases and political fingerpointing.

With billions in government funds meant to help renters still untapped, President Joe Biden this week urged Congress to extend the 11-month-old moratorium after a recent Supreme Court ruling meant the White House could not do so.

“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” Biden warned Friday.

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.

But Republicans balked at Democratic efforts to extend the eviction ban through mid-October, and the House of Representatives adjourned for its summer vacation Friday without renewing it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said blocking the measure was “an act of pure cruelty… leaving children and families out on the streets,” in a tweet late Saturday.

Pelosi in another tweet Saturday urged “state and local governments to immediately disburse the $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance approved by the Democratic Congress so that many families can avoid eviction.”

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 homelessness would boost coronavirus infections.

Although more than half of those jobs were since recovered, many families still have not caught up on missed rent payments.

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

The CDC eviction moratorium and other protections prevented an estimated 2.2 million eviction filings since March 2020, said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.

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