U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday urged a new ban on evictions to prevent a wave of homelessness as the more infectious delta variant of the coronavirus takes hold.
But a day after a nationwide eviction moratorium expired, Biden acknowledged the administration does not have the legal authority to help renters stay in their homes.
That leaves the White House with few tools to deal with the issue that could impact millions of families after the 11-month-old moratorium ordered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lapsed early Sunday.
"Given the rising urgency of containing the spread of the delta variant," Biden asked the CDC to consider "a new, 30-day eviction moratorium — focused on counties with high or substantial case rates — to protect renters," the White House said in a statement.
However, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has been "unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium," the statement said.
The president also called on state and local authorities "to extend or put in place evictions moratoria for at least the next two months," joining a handful that have put such protections in place.
The nationwide ban was intended to extend until September, but a recent Supreme Court ruling meant it had to end early unless renewed by Congress.
However, a last-ditch effort by Democratic lawmakers failed.
The White House has instructed government agencies to do what they can to prevent evictions in properties in federal programs or with federal loan guarantees.
Biden also urged state and local governments to quickly send out the billions in emergency aid provided to help renters stay in their homes.
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.
About $21.5 billion is available in a second round of funding, but it will not go out until the first $25 billion is spent.
Unlike other pandemic-related aid that was distributed from Washington, such as stimulus checks, it was states, counties and cities that were responsible for building programs to dole out assistance earmarked for renters.