After Senate Republicans released on July 27 a coronavirus relief package that would do “next to nothing” to avoid the increased threat of evictions and homelessness during the pandemic, congressional leaders and Trump administration officials began formal meetings to negotiate a final bill. After several days of impasse, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reported weekend meetings had resulted in limited, but promising, progress.
Congress may reach an agreement on the COVID-19 relief package as soon as this week, as both House and Senate leadership have expressed interest in reaching a deal before members of Congress may leave for August Recess. While Republicans and Democrats are far apart on the contours of the relief package, there is widespread interest in reaching a bipartisan agreement. Advocates should contact their members of Congress today and continue to press them to include robust housing and homelessness protections in the final package.
Adding to the pressure to reach a deal is the expiration of the expanded unemployment benefits on July 31 and the federal eviction moratorium on July 24, which has left millions of renters at risk of eviction and, in worst cases, homelessness. Evictions risk lives, further burden overstretched hospital systems, and make it much more difficult for the country to contain the virus. The stakes couldn’t be higher during this public health crisis: Ensuring that everyone is stably housed during and after the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a moral imperative – it is a public health necessity.
NLIHC is already seeing that your advocacy is having an impact. Democratic leaders are continuing to focus on the threat of evictions, and in our meetings with Hill staff, we are hearing from more Republican members of Congress about the need for emergency rental assistance. President Trump even called for a short-term extension of the federal eviction moratoriums, and while this is insufficient, his statement marks the first time the president has acknowledged the looming eviction crisis.
Congress must critical housing and homelessness resources and protections in the HEROES Act, including NLIHC’s top priorities: a national, uniform moratorium on all evictions for nonpayment of rent; $100 billion in emergency rental assistance through the “Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act;” $11.5 billion to help address the health and housing needs of people experiencing homelessness; and at least $13 billion in additional resources to ensure housing stability.