STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
More than 8 million tenants in the United States who are behind in their rent payments are now at risk of being evicted. The Supreme Court struck down a CDC eviction moratorium. And NPR's Chris Arnold is with us. Chris, good morning.
CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What was the court's reasoning?
ARNOLD: Well, the majority of the justices say that the CDC lacks the power to impose this moratorium. And some of the language was very clear on that. They said that the overreach here was, quote, "breathtaking." The justices asked rhetorically, quote, "Could the CDC mandate free grocery delivery to the homes of the sick or require manufacturers to provide free computers to people, so they could work from home?" - you know, the idea of being, where does this end? We should say the three liberal justices on the court disagreed with that. They said, quote, "The public interest strongly favors respecting the CDC's judgment." They noted 90% of the country has high COVID transmission rates with this Delta variant. But the majority ruled that for the eviction moratorium to continue, Congress needs to vote to extend it further. And when Congress tried to do that last month, they didn't have the votes.
INSKEEP: I guess we can't say this is a terrible surprise. The Supreme Court indicated earlier this summer that the CDC shouldn't be continuing these moratoriums. The Biden administration essentially dared people to sue them by extending the moratorium. They got a few more weeks of moratorium. But now they, in fact, have been stopped.
ARNOLD: What happened was the moratorium was set to expire at the end of July. The Biden administration warned Congress saying, look. The Supreme Court has explicitly said the CDC doesn't have the legal authority to do this anymore, urged Congress to vote to extend it. But like we said, Congress didn't have the votes. Still, there was a lot of pressure from liberal Democrats. Congresswoman Cori Bush now famously slept on the Capitol's steps to protest this. Plus, COVID cases began spiking in a huge way. And so the CDC went ahead with a slightly different, more targeted moratorium. But the court sided with the landlord group that brought the case and said basically, look. It's time to give them their property rights back.
INSKEEP: Well, now that it's over, is it clear to you how effective the moratorium was?
ARNOLD: This has been protecting a lot of people. During the moratorium, we've had half - we've had twice as many people and families behind on rent but only half the normal number of eviction filings, 1.5 million fewer eviction filings. So this is protecting a lot of people. And now everything really depends on one thing, and that is Congress approved $50 billion to help renters avoid eviction. Can that money reach people in time?
INSKEEP: Well, isn't that supposed to be the solution that helps landlords, too? Is the money getting where it needs to go?
ARNOLD: I know, and it's - this has been going on six months. But we got new numbers out this week. Only about 10% of that money is reaching the renters who need it. It's flowed from the federal government to states and counties and cities. There's 500 different programs trying to distribute this money. Some are doing a good job in places like Virginia, Texas, New York. Other places, it's a real big mess. Less than 5% of the money's gotten out the door. And this is really important. If landlords see this as working in their area, they might have patience, not evict people, wait to get the money. In places where it's a mess, they might throw up their hands and start evicting a lot of - lots of people. So it's really crucial to get a lot of these programs working better.
INSKEEP: NPR's Chris Arnold. Chris, thanks for your close attention to this for many months. It really matters.
ARNOLD: Thanks, Steve.
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