at the federal, state,
and local levels [have]
filings during the
states the GAO.
The American Spark
Why The Federal Eviction Ban Matters
By Cliff Montgomery - Mar. 24th, 2021
“The Biden administration is weighing whether to extend a soon-expiring federal policy that prohibits landlords
from evicting their cash-strapped tenants” during the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Washington
Post declares today.
“The U.S. government seeks to buy more time for an estimated 10 million families who have fallen behind on
their rent,” adds the news source.
Without that extension, “the federal eviction ban is set to lapse in seven days, opening the door for some
Americans to be removed from their homes,” states the Post.
“To address these concerns, Congress and CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] created
eviction moratoriums, and Congress appropriated $25 billion to Treasury to disburse to state and local
grantees to administer emergency rental assistance programs to help those behind on their rent,” according
to a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
The study reveals what these actions have done so far . . . and what the GAO believes still needs to be
Below, the American Spark offers quotes from this eye-opening study:
Why GAO Did This Study
“Millions of renters and property owners continue to experience housing instability and financial challenges
during the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these concerns, Congress and CDC created eviction
moratoriums, and Congress appropriated $25 billion to Treasury to disburse to state and local grantees to
administer emergency rental assistance programs to help those behind on their rent.
“The CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security] Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor
federal efforts related to COVID-19. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) how eviction mora-
toriums have contributed to housing stability during the pandemic and (2) Treasury’s implementation
of the Emergency Rental Assistance program. [. . .]
What GAO Found
“Eviction moratoriums at the federal, state, and local levels reduced eviction filings during the COVID-19
pandemic; however, some eligible renters may not have benefitted from a recent federal moratorium. GAO’s
analysis of 63 jurisdictions found that the median rate of eviction filings was about 74 percent lower in the last
week of July 2020—when a moratorium included in the CARES Act expired—than in the same week in 2019.
“Eviction filings remained lower throughout 2020 (relative to 2019) but gradually increased during a separate
moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September 2020.
“During this moratorium, jurisdictions without separate state or local moratoriums experienced larger
increases in eviction filings, which suggests that some renters may not fully understand how to use the CDC
moratorium (completing required documentation).
“CDC extended its moratorium through March 31, 2021, but has taken few steps to promote awareness and
understanding of the moratorium and its requirements.
“Clear, accurate, and timely information is essential to keep the public informed during the pandemic. Without
a communication and outreach plan, including federal coordination, CDC will be missing an opportunity to
ensure that eligible renters avoid eviction.
“By late January 2021, Treasury had disbursed 99 percent of the $25 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance
funds to state and other eligible grantees responsible for making rent and utility payments to recipients.
“Treasury’s initial program guidance issued that month did not fully define some program requirements and
included requirements that could have delayed the delivery of funds or deter participation.
“In late February 2021, Treasury updated its guidance to address several of these concerns, such as by
providing grantees with flexibility for prioritizing lower income applicants and allowing written attestation of
income. Although the guidance did not clarify certain data collection and spending requirements, officials said
they will continue to update guidance to address stakeholder concerns and strike a balance between
accountability and administrative efficiency.
“GAO will continue to actively monitor these efforts.
What GAO Recommends
“GAO recommends that CDC, in coordination with relevant federal entities, implement a communication and
outreach plan designed to ensure renters and property owners are aware of the agency’s eviction moratorium.
“Department of Health and Human Services disagreed with the recommendation. GAO continues to believe
the recommendation is valid, as discussed in this report.”
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