Safer at home: Biden administration steps up

When the national freeze on residential evictions, in place since the start of COVID last March, lapsed on Aug. 1, it wasn’t just at-risk tenants who panicked. Democrats in Congress and the White House were furiously fingerpointing for the other to act immediately, fearful of families being put on the street and them catching blame.

Congress needed to pass a new law, claimed the Biden team, pointing to a U.S. Supreme Court majority that said that the CDC did not have the authority to impose a nationwide moratorium. And the states were to blame as well for only handing out 7% of the $46.55 billion the feds set aside for rental aid.

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No, said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the administration needed to extend the moratorium because there wasn’t time for a new law since GOP members had blocked last-minute legislation. That left unanswered why the House and Senate hadn’t moved when the high court ruling came down on June 29. Some states still have their own eviction freezes in places, but unpaid landlords retain their rights to their own property, and with the House away until Sept. 20, something bad was going to happen.

Just then, last Tuesday, some clever people at the Centers for Disease Control crafted a new temporary freeze on evictions that may pass court muster. Citing the rapidly growing delta variant, the order imposes a moratorium until Oct. 3 on those counties “experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission levels of SARS-CoV-2.”

The CDC uses a four-level color-coded COVID scale on its maps: High (red) and substantial (orange) areas would have the moratorium, as opposed to moderate (yellow) and low (blue) counties. Numerically, almost 83% of U.S. counties are now covered. This is not the nationwide ban that the court opposed, but wisely targeted to where the disease is the worst. The goal is to buy time to send out the financial aid and bring down the virus.

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Just what the doctor ordered.

— New York Daily News

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