President Joe Biden on Wednesday extended the federal ban on evictions through March 2021 with an executive action in one of his first official acts following inauguration.
The ban on evictions has helped millions of Americans struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. The moratorium on evictions was set to expire at the end of the month.
The move is one of a long list of actions Biden took after he was sworn in as the President of the United States, including an extended pause on student loan payments, rejoining the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and rolling back various orders put in place by the Trump administration.
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By one estimate, 14 million Americans are behind on their rent during the crisis. In addition to extending the eviction ban through March, Biden is also expected to ask Congress to keep the moratorium in place through September 2021.
Research has found that evictions lead to significantly more coronavirus cases and deaths in an area.
"This is a time where it's not an overstatement to say that for many people, eviction can lead to death," said Helen Matthews, communications manager at City Life Vita Urbana, a nonprofit in Boston.
Advocates say extending the eviction ban is just a first step, and that there also needs to be enforcement to make sure landlords follow the law.
"The existing moratorium is flawed and some landlords exploit loopholes to evict tenants despite the protections," said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a statement. "No federal agency is enforcing the order's penalties for unlawful evictions."
In addition, there are growing calls for the ban to be matched with adequate rental assistance so that an eviction crisis is prevented rather than merely delayed. So far, Congress has allocated $25 billion in rental assistance but, after months of record job losses, rental arrears may be closer to $100 billion.
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