House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn called on the Biden administration Monday to extend the eviction moratorium and questioned why South Carolina has not distributed federal rental aid to those in need.
In a call with reporters, Clyburn said the Biden administration should extend the moratorium, which expired on Saturday after being implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the president should move forward, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated the administration could not extend it.
“I know what the Supreme Court has said, but my position is simply this: Take the administrative action that needs to be taken,” Clyburn said. “I would much rather the next four or five years be spent with them stopping the Biden administration than for us to spend the next four or five years trying to litigate to get it done. Let them litigate to get it undone.”
On the call, Clyburn also expressed frustration that South Carolina has moved too slowly in doling out its share of $500 million in rental assistance, saying almost none has been distributed.
“It makes no sense to me that here in South Carolina we’re sitting on $500 million, and people are about to have their furniture put out on the streets,” Clyburn said. “People are going to have to start all over and they can go live in a shelter and then run the risk of getting COVID-19 and spreading it throughout the community. This is not a good look for any state, and really not a good look for my home state.”
The S.C. Housing Authority has distributed about $9 million of the $297 million in rental aid it has access to distribute, said Chris Winston, spokesman for the agency.
He added, the General Assembly has yet to designate which state agency will be responsible for distributing $201 million in rental assistance made available through the American Rescue Plan.
Winston said the distribution of relief money has gone out more quickly in the last couple of weeks.
“We heard congressman Clyburn’s frustration today,” Winston said. “We share in the feeling we’re not where we want to be. We’re not satisfied with the amount of funding we’ve gotten out the door either, which is why we’re looking at how we can make things easier for applicants so we can speed up the process.”
South Carolina’s Housing Authority has promoted the assistance program for people to apply through churches, food banks, community centers, local government offices, and landlord and Realtor associations. The agency also has advertised through direct mail, texts, TV and radio, and distributed information at special events, Winston said.
The Housing Authority also has said if tenants are forced out of their rental units, the money can be used to cover emergency housing, such as staying at a hotel, moving costs or security deposits for a new apartment.
Winston said other states who have moved money out more quickly have more relaxed documentation requirements, something the Housing Authority is now doing.
“We continue to look at those folks, because we want to get as many of those folks to the finish line and with full and complete applications so that gives us the chance to review them, process them and move them towards payment,” Winston said.
Facing pressure, the White House called on states and municipalities Monday to take steps to stop evictions by extending or putting in place evictions moratoriums for at the least the next two months. The White House also is asking local courts to pause eviction proceedings until tenants and landlords can first seek to access emergency rental assistance.
Last week, Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters an extension would not come in South Carolina.
“Those moratoriums have been in effect for many months now,” McMaster said. “We are looking for people to go to work, we have thousands of jobs and employers that have jobs for people. We have training (for) anyone who wants to take these jobs.
“It’s time for all of us to get back to work. That is the way to go forward for us to be working. At some point these emergency measures must end and they’ve ended in South Carolina.”