- Branko Marceticstaff writer at Jacobin magazine.
The Biden administration has issued a new two-month moratorium on evictions, covering much of the country, after facing public pressure from progressive lawmakers led by Congressmember Cori Bush of Missouri, who was once unhoused herself and slept on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in protest after the moratorium on evictions lapsed on July 31. The new moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will cover areas of the United States where there is “substantial” or “high” spread of the coronavirus. The belated renewal of the eviction moratorium shows that “people need to be willing to criticize this administration,” says Jacobin staff writer Branko Marcetic. “People want the administration to succeed, but treating them with kid gloves is not necessarily going to be the best way to get these kinds of progressive and just outcomes in policy.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
The Biden administration has issued a new two-month moratorium on evictions, covering much of the country, after facing massive public outcry from progressive lawmakers led by Congressmember Cori Bush. The new CDC moratorium will cover areas of the United States where there’s “substantial” or “high” spread of the coronavirus. A nationwide moratorium on evictions expired Saturday, after Democratic lawmakers failed to pass a bill to protect millions of people who could be forced from their homes.
On Friday night, Democratic Congressmember Cori Bush, who was once unhoused herself, began camping out with others on the steps of the Capitol in protest, staying until Tuesday’s announcement. In a tweet, Bush wrote, “On Friday night, I came to the Capitol with my chair. I refused to accept that Congress could leave for vacation while 11 million people faced eviction. For 5 days, we’ve been out here, demanding that our government acts to save lives. Today, our movement moved mountains.” During an interview on CNN, Bush responded to the temporary moratorium extension.
REP. CORI BUSH: I’m elated, and I’m overwhelmed, you know, because just the thought that so many people right now, millions of people, you know, will not be forced out on the streets.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Democratic Congressmember Rashida Tlaib is calling on House Democrats to return recent contributions from real estate tycoon George Marcus, who recently donated $1 million to the House Majority PAC just weeks before Democratic lawmakers failed to extend the eviction moratorium.
For more, we’re joined by Branko Marcetic, staff writer at Jacobin magazine, where his latest piece is headlined “The Democrats’ Eviction Moratorium Failure Is Unforgivable.”
You wrote the piece before the announcement Tuesday. In a minute, we’ll talk to you about the infrastructure deal. But the significance of the now eviction moratorium that’s more targeted, but also the popular outcry, led by Cori Bush, once unhoused herself?
BRANKO MARCETIC: Yeah, I think it’s a really important lesson. Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure being put on the White House from congresspeople and the like. Pelosi and Maxine Waters, apparently, were calling the White House over the weekend, basically saying, “Hey, you need to do something about this.” So, there is an element of, you know, some of that kind of more congenial work going behind the scenes.
But I think it’s really important also that the failure to actually do anything about the eviction moratorium, which the deadline was known about for a month, at the very least — the Supreme Court basically said it would strike it down at the end of June. The failure to do anything about that caused such a big outcry and really fierce criticism among progressives and just ordinary people, that I think that was also the other thing that helped push the White House to ultimately — despite saying, “We don’t have the power to do anything, and, you know, we don’t want to risk a broader Supreme Court strikedown by issuing another moratorium order” — it pushed them to do it.
And I think that’s a really important lesson. We saw it also with the administration’s walk back on the refugee numbers. That announcement, when Biden said he was going to keep the refugee numbers basically at Trump’s level, an incredibly low level, the outcry forced him to backtrack. So, I think the lesson here is, people need to be willing to criticize this administration. People want the administration to succeed, but sort of treating them with kid gloves is not necessarily going to be the best way to get these kinds of progressive and just outcomes in policy.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Branko, I wanted to ask you — the criticisms of the administration clearly were needed, but I’m wondering — there were billions of dollars allocated in the previous COVID-19 bills for rental assistance. And a large — most of this money has not yet been given out by the states. New York state has 160,000 people who have applied for rental assistance. And according to The New York Times, almost no one has gotten any money from a Democratic, supposedly liberal, state. What’s going on with the states giving out the money that’s already been apportioned to help tenants?
BRANKO MARCETIC: Well, look, I mean, real estate interests are powerful everywhere. It’s not just on a national level; it’s also at the state and local levels, perhaps even more so than at the national level.
I mean, the other thing is that this was really enabled by the way that this rental assistance was designed. It was designed to delegate to the states, which, you know, I mean, through history, through American history, one of the lessons is that when you delegate programs to states to design and implement, it doesn’t necessarily always mean that it’s going to be a failure or that it’s going to be delayed or have problems, but just by nature of the fact that state governments are not always controlled by progressive lawmakers, it does mean that you risk all these different states or localities putting in different rules and different requirements that end up making it a lot harder for people to get the money. And that’s basically what happened. The reason people aren’t getting it quickly enough, people are having trouble with being able to apply for these things, being able to fill out whatever they have to fill out.
You know, and you compare it to, say, the PPP support that was given to businesses by the Trump administration, that program was designed — it was a federal program. There was very minimal bureaucracy. It was meant to get money through the door as quickly as possible. And so, I think that’s a pretty key comparison there, where it shows you this idea: “Well, you know, if it’s business, well, then, money has to go out as quickly as possible. And you know what? If some people cheat the system, or people who are not worthy of this support end up trying to apply for it, then so be it,” whereas when it comes to renters, when it comes to ordinary working people, there’s more suspicion. And so, I think there’s that antiquated mindset. There’s still a long way to go to overcome it.