House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer Tuesday called on Republicans to pass legislation to restart an eviction moratorium and funnel $175 billion into housing assistance programs to help Americans stay in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
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The top two Congressional Democrats made their pleas as federal housing help has expired and as many as 40 million people in the U.S. could be at risk of eviction over the coming months, according to an Aspen Institute study that came out in August.
"The rent is due today, but too many families won’t be able to make payments through no fault of their own—pushing them deeper into debt and the prospect of being thrown out of their homes," Schumer and Pelosi said in a Sept. 1 statement.
They continued: "Right now, over 40 million Americans are at risk of eviction—yet Republicans refuse to recognize the needs of working families facing the accelerating threat of eviction and skyrocketing debt."
The Trump Administration, however, announced on Tuesday a temporary halt in residential evictions to assist those impacted by COVID-19. The action doesn't allocate any new additional funds, which would require Congressional action.
The House passed the HEROES Act back in May that provided $100 billion to help renters pay rent and $75 billion to help homeowners pay their mortgages. It also expanded the 120-day eviction moratorium for renters in federally assisted properties to a 12-month moratorium on nonpayment evictions from "substantially all rental housing," the National Low Income Housing Coalition points out. Schumer and Pelosi renewed their calls Tuesday for the Senate to pass the $3 trillion HEROES Act.
Senate Republicans rejected the Democrats' legislation as too costly and unnecessary, but so far they've yet to pass their own plan. But two GOP leaders signaled Tuesday that Senate Republicans may forge a path forward next week. It's unclear if rental assistance would be included in the narrow GOP legislation.
The House and Senate worked in a bipartisan fashion in March to pass the CARES Act that included the federal eviction moratorium and expanded federal unemployment aid of $600 weekly.
But the eviction protection and supplemental unemployment payments ended at the end of July. President Trump sought to step in with executive actions on Aug. 8 that had $400 weekly federal support, with states required to pay 25 percent of the benefit. He also signed a directive to encourage federal efforts to help renters and homeowners avoid eviction or foreclosure -- but stopped short of extending a moratorium.
Tuesday's announcement from the White House would extend a moratorium on residential evictions through 2020 on individuals earning $98,000 or less or couples earning under $198,000 who are at risk of homelessness if they are evicted from their property.
Housing advocates said the action wasn't enough and Congress must act on legislation with at least $100 billion in federal funds to avoid tens of millions of Americans losing their homes.
"Ensuring housing stability in the midst of a pandemic is not only a moral imperative, it is a public health necessity," Diane Yentel, National Low Income Housing Coalition president and CEO, said in a statement to FOX Business.
"The eviction tsunami is completely predictable and entirely preventable. Congress and the White House must enact a COVID-19 spending bill that includes a uniform moratorium on all evictions for nonpayment of rent for the duration of the pandemic, and at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance," Yentel continued. "Together, these actions will stem the tide of evictions across the country.”