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On Tuesday, President Joe Biden capitulated to the far-left congressional Democrats who call themselves the Squad, reinstating a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium against evictions. Never mind that in June the US Supreme Court ruled the moratorium couldn’t be legally extended beyond July 31 without going beyond the CDC’s health powers.
The Squad’s agenda is socialism: Don’t pay rent, we’ll block evictions; don’t pay back college loans, we’ll cancel them; don’t work, we’ll take money from those who do work and give it to you.
That’s why it’s troubling to see that in this faceoff between Biden and the Squad, he was spineless.
Squad Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) slept in the rough on the US Capitol steps over the weekend, surrounded by cases of bottled water, pizza boxes, staffers and a fawning press corps. They warned of soaring homelessness if the eviction ban were not reinstated.
In response to their theatrics, Biden’s health officials announced a new moratorium that could expire Oct. 3. Or last longer, depending on the virus.
The Squad’s preference is for an eviction moratorium that not only suspends rent and mortgage obligations, but cancels them until the pandemic is over. When is that? Maybe never, in their view and that of many blue elites.
It’s of a piece with the far left’s broader attempt to use COVID as an excuse to disrupt the most basic American principles. Before Omar set up her campsite on the Capitol Friday, she introduced a bill for guaranteed incomes. Everyone would receive $1,200 a month from the government, whether you work or not. It’s utopia — unless you happen to be one of the people toiling to pay for it.
The truth is, there is no need for an eviction moratorium. Congress has provided $47 billion in rent relief with generous terms. A New York City household of four earning as much as $95,450 is eligible. There are delays in getting the money out, but in New York, California, Massachusetts and several other states, any renter who applies for aid is protected from eviction while waiting.
That federal rent aid is on top of stimulus checks and unemployment benefits with federal add-ons, and in the Empire State, newly enhanced state vouchers for renters who need help.
The White House said Monday, “Money is available in every state to help renters who are behind on rent and at risk of eviction.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged states to get the money doled out.
The deeper economic problem isn’t tenants unable to find work. It’s too few workers willing to take the jobs available. “America’s employers can’t fill a record 9.2 million jobs because the government has been paying people more in unemployment to stay home,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis told The Post. “So why aren’t they paying their rent?”
Continuing the moratorium will clobber mom-and-pop landlords who need revenue to pay mortgages and repair buildings. They’ve been hardest hit during the pandemic, according to the University of Pennsylvania Housing Initiative. Prolonging the moratorium threatens their survival, putting housing supply at risk.
Let’s be clear. A moratorium won’t relieve the crime, filth and disorder caused by the homeless lying on the streets, benches and subway stairs. Most are mentally ill and/or addicted. They didn’t become homeless because of pandemic layoffs. Some have been living rough for a decade.
They need sensible love: removal from the streets to supervised shelters with mental-health and addiction services — for their sake, and to restore quality of life and safety in cities like the Big Apple.
Last week, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance banning encampments in most public areas and ordering police to clear tents and cardboard colonies. Even uber-liberal LA has had enough.
As for homelessness caused by the pandemic, Republicans and Democrats alike supported a temporary moratorium on evictions, when millions were forced out of work by the lockdowns. That time has passed. Layoffs are way down from the pandemic peak in April 2020, and it’s time to get the capitalist engines humming. Unfortunately, that’s not what left-wing Democrats want.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.
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