A sign calling for fighting evictions is set on the ground as Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) spends the night outside the US Capitol to call for for an extension of the federal eviction moratorium on July 31, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Via AFP)
US Democrats in the House of Representatives have called on the Biden administration to immediately extend a moratorium on American housing evictions through Oct. 18.
Democratic leaders argued that it is a "moral imperative" to do so in order to prevent people from being thrown to the streets as COVID-19 Delta variant that is taking hold across the United States.
The request was made through a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top leaders.
"Action is needed, and it must come from the Administration. That is why House leadership is calling on the Administration to immediately extend the moratorium", the House joint statement said. "An extension of the moratorium is based on public health and the delta variant."
The eviction moratorium, an order banning American landlords from evicting those failing to pay rent amid the pandemic, expired on Saturday, raising concerns among Democrats. The moratorium was imposed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last autumn.
President Joe Biden asked Congress to extend the deadline as the Delta variant is raging.
But Congress failed to act after a Republican lawmaker blocked a move in the House to immediately bring up a bill under the unanimous consent of the chamber.
On Sunday, Senator Cori Bush tweeted that "weíre still here", posting a picture from the steps of the Capitol, where she is seen accompanied by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Congressman Jamaal Bowman.
"We have to reconvene the House and vote to reinstate the eviction moratorium to put an end to the eviction emergency. 11 million lives and livelihoods are on the line", Bush said.
It was unclear whether the Biden administration has the authority to extend the moratorium using its executive powers and without Congress acting.
The 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.
Delays in federal rental assistance mean American tenants will suddenly owe months of rents they cannot afford to pay.
More than 15 million Americans in 6.5 million households are currently behind on their rental payments.
US states with weaker renter protections could be looking at an "avalanche" of evictions as the moratorium has expired.
This "is adding to the challenges faced by lower-income Americans as they struggle to recover from job losses and other hardships brought about by COVID," said Realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale.