US President Joe Biden is seeking continued protections for renters after a Supreme Court ruling forced an eviction moratorium to end early

Washington (AFP) - Just two days before it is set to expire, US President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Congress to extend the federal ban on evictions as the Delta variant of the coronavirus threatens to delay the country’s recovery.

The 11-month old moratorium was intended to remain in place through September, but a recent Supreme Court ruling signaled it cannot continue beyond July 31 without authorization from Congress, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

Ordered by the Centers for Disease Control in September 2020, the measure “prevented hundreds of thousands of Americans from experiencing the heartbreak (and) homelessness” of eviction if they lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Psaki said in a statement.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the president calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay.”

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department launched a campaign this week to get the word out about the Emergency Rental Assistance program that provides funds to help pay housing and utilities costs.

The Treasury said it sent $25 billion out to states and localities under the program in February, and another $21.5 billion is available, but indicated that as of June, less than $3 billion had reached renters.

Republicans in Congress accused the administration of mismanaging the program.

“This is a full-scale failure by the Biden Administration,” Representative Patrick McHenry, the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement Thursday. He noted that he has been “demanding answers on the status of why these rental assistance dollars weren’t out the door.”

Psaki said that amid the recent spread of the Delta variant – which has caused some localities to reimpose mask requirements – “Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability.”

The White House also asked government departments involved in housing to extend eviction bans for federally-insured properties they control.