New eviction ban issued by CDC for most of U.S., including Pittsburgh

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a new moratorium on evictions that would last until October 3, as the Biden administration sought to quell intensifying criticism that it was allowing vulnerable renters to lose their homes during a pandemic.

The new moratorium could help keep millions in their homes as the coronavirus’ delta variant has spread and states have been slow to release federal rental aid. It would temporarily halt evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of virus transmissions -- including Pittsburgh -- and would cover areas where 90% of the U.S. population lives.

According to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, nearly 3,000 eviction cases have been filed in the county so far this year.

When it comes to rental assistance, nearly 12,000 people applied for it in Allegheny County between March and July of this year.

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The moratorium announcement was something of a reversal for the Biden administration after saying that a Supreme Court ruling prevented a moratorium. But the choice to impose a new measure in the face of legal uncertainty was also a win for the progressive lawmakers who pushed the White House to do more to prevent some 3.6 million Americans from losing their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.

President Joe Biden stopped short Tuesday afternoon of announcing the new ban on evictions during a press conference at the White House, ceding the responsibility to the CDC.

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“My hope is it’s going to be a new moratorium,” Biden told reporters.

The extension could help heal a rift with liberal Democratic lawmakers who were calling on the president to take executive action to keep renters in their homes as the delta variant of the coronavirus spread and a prior moratorium lapsed over the weekend.

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The new policy came amid a scramble of actions by the Biden team to reassure Democrats and the country that it could find a way to limit the damage from potential evictions through the use of federal aid. But pressure mounted as key lawmakers said it was not enough.

Top Democratic leaders joined Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who has been camped outside the U.S. Capitol, the freshman congresswoman who once lived in her car as a young mother, leading a passionate protest urging the White House to prevent widespread evictions.

“For 5 days, we’ve been out here, demanding that our government acts to save lives,” she tweeted. “Today, our movement moved mountains.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was a day of “extraordinary relief.”

“The imminent fear of eviction and being put out on the street has been lifted for countless families across America. Help is Here!” Pelosi said in a statement.

Administration officials had previously said a Supreme Court ruling stopped them from setting up a new moratorium without congressional backing, saying states and cities must be more aggressive in releasing nearly $47 billion in relief for renters on the verge of eviction.