WASHINGTON — By the end of Saturday, millions of Americans will be at risk of being evicted from their homes as the federal eviction moratorium is set to expire.
But not if Congresswoman Cori Bush has anything to say about it.
The representative of Missouri’s First Congressional District took a stand Friday night by sleeping outside the U.S. Capitol. She was trying to get the attention of her fellow lawmakers – who are now on a six-week recess – to vote to continue a nationwide ban on evictions.
“I cannot sit back and allow people to end up on the streets and not do nothing about it,” she said from outside the Capitol Friday night.
“The eviction moratorium expires tonight at midnight. We could have extended it yesterday, but some Democrats went on vacation instead. We slept at the Capitol last night to ask them to come back and do their jobs. Today’s their last chance. We’re still here,” Bush tweeted with a photo of the group gathered in front of the Capitol at dawn.
Rep. Bush is asking for one of three things to happen before 11:59 p.m. Saturday:
- President Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extend the federal eviction moratorium.
- The Senate votes to extend the moratorium while they are in session on Saturday and the House reconvenes to immediately pass H.R. 4791, the Protecting Renters from Evictions Act, and send it to the President to be signed into law.
- The House reconvenes immediately to pass an eviction moratorium, the Senate takes up the legislation, and sends it to President Biden for his signature.
The Biden administration announced Thursday it would allow the nationwide eviction ban to expire Saturday, saying its hands are tied due to the Supreme Court already signaling it would not allow another extension. Instead, the White House called on Congress to make a move.
“As a sitting member of Congress it’s our duty, it’s my duty to make sure I’m representing everyone in my district, and for me that means doing all that I can for everybody in St. Louis, Missouri, but starting with those that have the very least,” Bush said.
The congresswoman knows firsthand how traumatizing being forced out of a home can be.
“I’ve been evicted. I’ve been unhoused. I’ve been forced to live in my car with my two babies,” Rep. Bush said during a news conference in April while trying to convince St. Louis County to extend its eviction ban. “I know how destabilizing and violent an eviction can be.”
As of July 5, about 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The CDC first put the moratorium in place last September to help slow the spread of COVID-19 while millions of Americans were out of work due to the pandemic.
Housing advocates like Rep. Bush are calling for the ban to be extended, with the surge and increasing dangers of the delta variant and since so little rental assistance has been distributed.
Congress allocated nearly $47 billion in rental assistance to help tenants pay off months of back rent. But so far, the Associated Press reports only about $3 billion of the first portion of $25 billion has been distributed through June by states and municipalities.
“The issue we have with our neighbors being unhoused right now all over the country, if that thing hasn’t been fixed, how do you add 7 million more people to it,” Rep. Bush said, shaking her head. “And we’re talking about a global pandemic.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones Sunday weighed in on the expiration of the eviction moratorium.
“I am disappointed in our federal government’s inability to extend this critical protection for families, and appreciate our Congresswoman Cori Bush’s efforts to renew the eviction moratorium," Jones said in a press release. "Keeping families in their homes will help us fight COVID-19."
City residents who need help paying rent or utilities should call 211 or 800-427-4626.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.