Pelosi and Yellen to Discuss Rental Assistance as Eviction Crisis Looms

House Democrats pressed Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen on Tuesday to do more to help struggling renters who are at risk of being forced out of their homes, saying the Biden administration should extend an eviction moratorium that expired last weekend and pressing the Treasury Department to do whatever it takes to get rental aid out the door.

The request for White House action comes as the Biden administration faces an uproar from progressive Democrats, who are faulting the administration for not finding a way to extend the eviction ban that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed last fall as a Covid-19 relief measure.

In a private call between Democrats and Ms. Yellen, the Treasury secretary insisted that her team was using all available tools to get rental assistance money to states and to help governments distribute those funds to landlords and renters. She told lawmakers that the administration would “leave no stone unturned” to address the national emergency.

“I thoroughly agree we need to bring every resource to bear,” Ms. Yellen said, according to a person who was on the call.

Ms. Pelosi, for her part, has been trying close the gap between Democratic progressives and a group of about a dozen moderates in her caucus who blocked efforts to pass a bill last week that would have extended the freeze through the end of the year.

Ms. Pelosi said on the call that the eviction moratorium needed to be extended. Ms. Yellen noted that President Biden has asked the C.D.C. to see if it is legally possible to extend the eviction ban and that she is hopeful they will look carefully at that.

On Monday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Biden had asked the C.D.C. on Sunday to consider extending the moratorium for 30 days, even just to high-risk states, but said the C.D.C. has “been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium. Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections.”

At a White House meeting with President Biden on Friday, Ms. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, bluntly informed Mr. Biden they did not have the votes to pass an extension — and pressed him to take whatever action he could using his executive power, according to two Democratic congressional aides briefed on the meeting.

The Biden administration has said that it lacks the legal authority to extend the moratorium and has called on Congress to find a legislative solution. On Monday, the administration called on states to ramp up their efforts to provide more federal aid to struggling renters — while issuing a desperate plea for localities to extend their own local moratoriums.

In a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, Ms. Pelosi said she would discuss with Ms. Yellen how to expedite the disbursement of the $46.5 billion that Congress allocated to keep people in their homes.

“I am pleased that accelerating rental assistance is a stated priority of the administration,” Ms. Pelosi said.

But senior Democrats have been pushing the White House to do more.

“I wish that the president, the C.D.C. would have gone forward and extended the moratorium,” Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California who is chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview with The New York Times on Monday. “They have the power to do that. I think he should have gone in and he should have done it, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Ms. Waters echoed that sentiment in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, assailing the Biden administration for its “refusal” to extend the moratorium and for a “last-minute punt to Congress.”

With the moratorium in limbo, Ms. Yellen is under added pressure to make the rental assistance money flow. Only about $3 billion of the $46 billion had been delivered to eligible households through June, according to Treasury Department data.

In recent weeks, Ms. Yellen’s deputy, Wally Adeyemo, visited Houston and Arlington, Va., where rental assistance distribution has been going well, to help raise awareness about the program and understand how to make it more effective.

The Treasury Department is stepping up its efforts to raise awareness about the rental assistance money, potentially through radio or social media campaigns, and trying to let governments know the administration can offer additional support to states that lack the infrastructure to distribute the rental assistance money efficiently.

Ms. Yellen told lawmakers that the Treasury Department would be sending packets of information with material that could be used in advertisements and through social media channels in their districts.

Source: NYT > U.S. > Politics

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