Aug 3, 2021 - Podcasts

Millions of Americans face eviction

The federal eviction moratorium expired this past weekend, putting an estimated 4 million people — or more — at risk of getting kicked out of their homes.

  • Plus, a rare moment of discord between Democratic leaders and the president.
  • And, openly trans and non-binary athletes make their mark in Tokyo.

Guests: Axios' Danielle Chemtob, Jonathan Swan, and Ina Fried.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, August 3rd. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: a rare moment of discord between Democratic leaders and the president. Plus, openly trans and non-binary athletes make their mark in Tokyo.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: millions of Americans facing eviction.

The federal moratorium on evictions expired this past weekend which put almost 4 million people at risk of getting kicked out of their homes. In a few minutes, Jonathan Swan is going to share his reporting on a rare rift between the Biden administration and Democrats on keeping this ban in place. But first - it's hard to actually visualize the enormity of this if you're not living it yourself, which is why we wanted to zoom in on one place: Charlotte, North Carolina with Danielle Chemtob, an investigative reporter with Axios Charlotte. Hey Danielle.


NIALA: Danielle, it's only been a few days, so it's too early to know the scope of the whole problem, but can you tell us what renters in Charlotte are facing right now?

DANIELLE: Yeah, so, we've had an eviction moratorium in place, both the federal as well as the state moratorium though, the state moratorium expired about a month before the federal moratorium. There's also some issues with rental assistance and this money that's been distributed to cities and states to basically, you know, help people who've lost their jobs or help people who are behind on their rent.

I spoke with a woman named Maria who lost her job about a year ago after contracting Covid-19. She applied to our local rent relief program, which of course uses the money from this federal package, and it took her about five months to receive the money. And so in that time, her landlord actually tried to evict her, went through the court process. At the very end, she was able to pay off the balance, but you know, it was a really scary situation for her. She has two children. She told me it was really stressful.

NIALA: Why did it take so long if she applied? Why did it take five months?

DANIELLE: Here in Charlotte and I know there are other cities that do it this way as well, you know, there's a nonprofit in charge of handling money. There's never been a program like this where there's millions and millions of dollars flowing to these local governments to give out to people and certainly these nonprofits have never dealt with anything like this. Charlotte has around $7.8 million left. In a report as of the end of June showed that they dispersed around 52.5% of the money they've received. So, you know, it's tens of millions of dollars for basically this local nonprofit that's been charged by the city to distribute.

NIALA: And it's not clear yet what the federal government is going to do, but what are local officials doing in Charlotte to try to create maybe some short term solutions?

DANIELLE: Yeah, so the local rental assistance program, they've recently changed their priorities. So if you're facing an eviction imminently, you are at the top of the list for this funding. So that's one area that they've done differently. Our local representative Alma Adams has actually asked the sheriff and some local court officials to try to implement some kind of local moratorium, but that doesn't really appear to have gone anywhere. They're trying what they can, but without a federal or state response, it's a bit limited.

NIALA: Danielle Chemtob is an investigative reporter with Axios Charlotte. And if you want to read more of her story on this, we'll put the link in our show notes. Thanks, Danielle.

DANIELLE: Thank you.

NIALA: In 15 seconds, Jonathan Swan is going to be joining me to talk about the federal response to all of this.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. We've been talking about the lapse federal ban on evictions first, from a local perspective. Now let's turn to what it looks like at the national level. Democratic leadership in Congress is in a fight with The White House over how to keep people in their homes. And Axios’ Jonathan Swan is here to explain it all. Good morning, Jonathan.

JONATHAN SWAN: Good morning.

NIALA: What's the problem here, between President Biden and Democratic leadership in Congress?

SWAN: Well, it's quite an unusual situation because usually Biden's top aides are in perfect synchronicity with Democratic leadership on The Hill. This was a strange situation because they've been putting out these contradictory statements. Last Thursday, The White House blindsided democratic leadership, by saying... this moratorium is going to expire. We have no legal authority and we need Congress to act. The Supreme Court made clear in their ruling last month that they're going to rely on-they need Congress to act to extend the moratorium. I'm told by a source, with direct knowledge, that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, when they met with President Biden on Friday, they told him they did not have the votes to pass this through the House and the Senate. And you had this sort of behind the scene... scramble over the weekend where Biden asked the CDC, to find some kind of other solution, a 30 day extension targeted, you know, whatever. And they've come back with a pretty clear message that their lawyers can't find authority.

NIALA: And so this was a big conversation in The White House press briefing yes-yesterday. And we heard one of Biden's senior advisors, Gene Sperling say this about a thousand times when asked what the president could do about this.

SENIOR ADVISER GENE SPERLING: This president is continuing to double, triple, quadruple check on those issues, and to ask all of us to look in every corner and kick every tire and double, triple, quadruple check if there’s any possible way that we can move [some chatter] forward.

NIALA: How can they move forward here?

SWAN: Well, it's not clear, because this is sort of The White House accepting that Congress isn't going to get this done. And the lawyers for the CDC have said that this would be unlawful for them to unilaterally extend it, in light of The Supreme Court’s action.

NIALA: To...what Senator Dick Durbin said on Monday, was there a ball dropped somewhere?

SWAN: I've talked to sources on The Hill, senior Democrats on The Hill...They did suggest to me that The White House dropped the ball on this, in all of their efforts on infrastructure and the rest of it, they weren't thinking about this deadline and planning ahead as they normally do. So methodically, there's a whole lot of renters around this country, whole lot of tenants who are feeling very, very vulnerable. And so far, they've heard nothing from the federal government or from Congress that would give them the confidence that they're going to be protected.

NIALA: Axios has Jonathan Swan. Thanks, Jonathan.

SWAN: Thank you.

NIALA: Let’s head to Tokyo now for our latest dispatch from Ina Fried, who’s been covering the Olympics for Axios. And she’s witnessed some special moments over the last couple of days.

INA FRIED: So I got a chance to see a little bit of history tonight. As Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand became the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Olympics. She didn't successfully make any of her lifts, but just by competing, she became the first transgender woman to openly compete as herself at the Olympics. One thing to consider is before this year, in the 125 year history of the modern Olympics, there had never been an openly trans or nonbinary athlete competing. Tonight, there were actually two athletes competing. So I was at the Tokyo International Forum getting ready to watch Laurel Hubbard, and I was on my phone watching Canada play the U.S., in soccer, with Quinn and openly trans and nonbinary athlete. And when Canada won, it basically guaranteed that Quinn will medal. Now they had a medal from the 2016 Games, but that was before they publicly identified as trans or non-binary. They've clinched either a gold or a silver. So we're going to have the first transgender woman competing, but also the first trans or nonbinary athlete to win a medal as authentically themself. It really did feel special to be there for that moment in history. And it also, it was personally meaningful as a transgender reporter, knowing that if I weren't here covering it, there might not have been another transgender reporter there for that. So that also was personally meaningful.

NIALA: That’s Axios’ Ina Fried, from Tokyo.

Before we go -- we wanted to leave you on a high note today… a note only the one and only Prince can hit.

["Born 2 Die" by Prince plays]

NIALA: That’s the song Born 2 Die from Prince’s new album released posthumously last Friday. It’s called Welcome 2 America and was recorded in 2010. It’s the first full album from Prince’s vault of unreleased music.

That’s all for today! If you have a minute to star us and leave a review on Apple Podcasts - I would really appreciate it. Thanks to everyone who already has - it makes it easier for others to find us.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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