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St. Louis to assist tenants after federal eviction moratorium ends  

The city of St. Louis will begin issuing direct housing assistance payments to tenants after the federal eviction moratorium lapsed over the weekend.

Mayor Tishaura Jones announced the payments Monday, pointing to more than 3,000 pending eviction cases in St. Louis. Jones said the city was directing millions in federal funds to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates and ensure residents stay in their homes while expediting the application process with local funds. 

“My administration allocated nearly $3 million to get more shots in arms and expedite rental and utility assistance for families, and we continue to streamline the process to reach families at risk of eviction,” Jones said. “Confronting both these crises is essential to protect St. Louis families and stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Federal rules restricted communities from distributing funds directly to tenants, instead requiring the money to be allocated to landlords or utility companies. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently updated its guidelines to allow direct payments after landlords began opting out of the program. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) moratorium was lifted Saturday after Congress allowed it to expire despite a push from Democrats, including Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, to extend it. 

“I am disappointed in our federal government’s inability to extend this critical protection for families, and appreciate our Congresswoman Cori Bush’s efforts to renew the eviction moratorium,” Jones said. “Keeping families in their homes will help us fight COVID-19.”

Jones also increased funding to connect residents with rental assistance programs last week, directing nearly $1.5 million to legal services, emergency shelter, and bridge housing for St. Louis residents. Jones is at a stalemate with Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed over her proposal to send $500 in federal funds to families and invest in public safety initiatives. 

The Biden administration pointed to emergency funds allocated to states and major cities over the course of the pandemic, urging communities to use their federal resources to aid tenants while officials examine possible future actions. Congress allocated $46 billion in emergency rental assistance funds since the start of the pandemic, but officials warned many cities and states had been “too slow to act” on the funds.

“There is no excuse for any state or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet the critical need of so many Americans,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “This assistance provides the funding to pay landlords current and back rent so tenants can remain in their homes or apartments, not be evicted. No one in America should be evicted when federal funds are available, in the hands of state and local government, to pay back rent due.”

Psaki said Biden had asked the CDC to consider an additional 30-day moratorium focused on counties facing high or substantial case rates, and that they were searching for a legal path forward. Biden also called on states to enact their own eviction moratoriums and for landlords to halt evictions for the next month while seeking out emergency federal funds. 

The protections were instituted in September and expired Saturday.