Sep 21, 2021
Cori Bush, Elizabeth Warren Introduce Bill to Reinstate Eviction Moratorium Press Conference Transcript
Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Cori Bush introduced a bill that would give the HHS power to impose eviction moratoriums on September 21. Read the transcript of the press conference briefing here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
No, I think this is good. I think we’re good. Our members [crosstalk 00:00:03].
Speaker 2: (00:00)
Speaker 3: (00:07)
They want to [crosstalk 00:00:07].
Speaker 4: (00:11)
Rep. Cori Bush: (00:11)
Okay. Good morning.
Speaker 5: (00:11)
Rep. Cori Bush: (00:13)
Good morning. And thank you for being here. St. Louis and I extend a warm you to my colleagues, staff, impacted tenants, and members of the press for joining us here today. I also want to extend a special thanks to Senator Elizabeth Warren for her partnership and support in introducing the bicameral Keeping Renters Safe Act. Together will save lives. Last month, the world watched as my colleagues and I were joined by hundreds of community members in sleeping on the steps or sitting up on the steps of the Capitol behind us. We had one goal, to keep millions of people safely in their homes during a deadly pandemic. For five days, we experienced what it’s like to sleep outside, unable to escape the noisy environment, whether it’s laughter or pain.
Rep. Cori Bush: (01:18)
The rodents, the rats were running across the street. The biting cold. Yes, even though it was August in the middle of the night. The glaring sun or the pouring rain. We couldn’t sleep, rest, or heal from our trauma. We fought to protect people in cities like mine and St. Louis were nearly 10,000 and households have had evictions filed against them since the pandemic began. The moratorium extension we helped secure saved lives for three weeks before it was shamefully struck down, shamefully struck down by a partisan Supreme Court. Today, we return to the Capitol steps with renewed current and determination to introduce life saving legislation. The Keeping Renters Safe Act will protect renters from eviction and curb the spread of COVID 19.
Rep. Cori Bush: (02:15)
The bill clarifies that what we have long believed, the secretary of the department of health and human services has permanent authority to implement a residential eviction moratorium to address public health crises. The bill directs HHS to implement an eviction moratorium for the duration of this COVID 19 pandemic, plus 60 days. The bill would implement a moratorium that would be automatic. People wouldn’t have to apply for this protection. It would cover all residential eviction filings and proceedings with exceptions only to protect the health and safety of others. The goal of the Keeping Renters Safe Act is to keep vulnerable tenant safe from further harm, especially while states and localities are working, working hard to distribute the nearly $40 billion left in the emergency rental assistance funds.
Rep. Cori Bush: (03:18)
I will never forget the fear that rushed through my body when I saw the eviction notice posted on my own door. The fear that comes with not knowing how I would be able to keep my children safe, keep a roof over our heads, or keep a job. I experienced violence and trauma all three times that I was evicted. I know firsthand what that disruption of peace feels like. And we think that disruption of peace only is about being subject to the environment, subject to the elements. But what happens when once you find a home, once you’re able to move into a place, people think, oh, you’re fine now. But when I left my last home, when I was evicted, I couldn’t take my furniture. I couldn’t take things like the spatula. I couldn’t take photo frames. And I couldn’t take all the little things that I had purchased for my home. I don’t have those things anymore.
Rep. Cori Bush: (04:25)
So now I have to start over. That is another disruption of peace, because I know when I move in, do I have a pillow? Do I have blankets? Now I have to purchase all of those things over again. It’s a disruption of your peace that continues on and on and on. It’s trauma. So I will give my entire heart to ensure that no one, nobody, not one more person has to go through that. I learned on the streets of Ferguson, you have to protect your neighbor. You protect your sibling. You protect even a complete stranger because nobody is safe until we’re all safe. It is imperative that legislators provide. We provide protection now because we are being evicted. People are being evicted as we speak, as we stand here. People were evicted yesterday, weeks ago. People are having their wages garnished as a result of evictions. They’re being forced to move into crowded shelters, double up with family or live on the streets.
Rep. Cori Bush: (05:37)
These are circumstances that not only create instability, but significant increase the chance of people contracting COVID 19. Your child’s teacher, your nurse, or the person serving your food could be one of these at risk tenants, who is forced to inadvertently threaten the health and safety of the entire population. An eviction moratorium is the difference between life and death for all of us. So today we are continuing our historic shift in the way that we conduct the people’s business in Washington, DC. If this legislation does not pass, there will be more than 670,000 flags on the lawn and more lives lost. My colleagues and I stand united in declaring that the Keeping Renters Safe act is a just passed legislation. It is just passed legislation. We must protect the millions of people who are at risk of losing their homes, their stability, and even their lives.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (06:46)
Rep. Cori Bush: (06:51)
Now it is my absolute honor to introduce you, my friend, my partner, someone that inspired me even as I was standing out here, cold, hurting. My dear friend, Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (07:10)
Aw, thank you. Oh, great. Thank you. Thank you, Corey, for your leadership. And thank everyone here today who is ready to stand up. We are in a COVID crisis. We are in an eviction crisis and the eviction crisis is making the COVID crisis worse. This pandemic is not over. Families, millions of families across this country are worried about getting sick. They are worried about their next paycheck. They are worried about trying to catch up financially from weeks or months without a paycheck. This crisis falls hardest on black and brown families because they are more likely to be renters. And because the entire COVID crisis has fallen more harshly on them. Now, Congress and President Biden worked hard to protect people from being thrown out of their homes. We did this because it is the right thing to do, and it is the safe thing to do. But an extremist Supreme Court cut short eviction protections and put millions of people at risk for losing their homes.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (08:27)
Forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes will only make this public health crisis worse. As Delta surges, we must act. And that’s why I am honored to be here with my partner, Corey Bush, and all of my partners here to support the Keeping Renters Safe Act. This will put in place an eviction moratorium during this pandemic and give authority to HHS in the future to deal with this kind of crisis if we have another health pandemic. Study after study suggests that moratoriums aid in reducing infections and death due to COVID-19. And that when moratorium evict expire, there is an associated increase in COVID-19 and mortality. Right now, 7.7 million renters report being behind on their rent. That is nearly 14% of all adult renters. And people of color who have been hit hardest by this pandemic are disproportionately at risk. Nearly one quarter of black renters report being behind on rental payments.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (09:50)
Now last year, Congress worked together to account for that staggering reality. We believed that landlords should not have to bear this cost alone. So we provided more than $45 billion in emergency rental assistance. And that money is now getting into the hands of landlords around this country. It is helping families who lost a job get caught up on missed payments, but the money is going out too slowly. As of the end of August, nearly 90% of emergency rental assistance funds had not yet been distributed. There are still billions of dollars to distribute and millions of families need that help to avoid losing their homes. But thanks to an extremist Supreme Court, evictions are now on the rise. We can avoid further exacerbating this crisis if Congress can step up now and pass legislation that keeps families in their homes through the duration of this emergency. Implementing a new eviction moratorium will save lives. It is time now for Congress to act, and I am deeply honored to be here with my long time by partner and the woman who speaks the love language of policy, Congresswoman Ayana Presley. Ayana?
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: (11:31)
I find myself these days playing on repeat on my playlist, Marvin Gayes What’s Going On, because what is going on? That we find ourselves already in the midst of a public health crisis and we have another one on the horizon that is 100% preventable. And we have to fight and organize and mobilize this hard. What is going on? The extremism of this court has proven that they are not on the side of the people. And in fact, they are the absence of justice. When it comes to voting rights, when it comes to reproductive freedom, and when it comes to housing rights. And that is exactly why Congress must act.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: (12:16)
Led by my sister in service, Representative Bush, who I believe models my practice of the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power, driving and informing the policy making. We are all better for her service and led by her we chose to sleep on the steps of the Capitol. That was a choice, but millions more are running out of options. And it will not be a choice, but this is 100% preventable because eviction is a policy choice. So I want to thank Representative Bush for her leadership and Senator Warren for your steadfast partnership for gathering us here all today. It is a pleasure to stand with you today and introduce this life saving legislation, the Keeping Renters Safe Act.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: (13:04)
New cases of COVID 19 are continuing to rise in my home state of Massachusetts. The truth is this pandemic is far from over. I cannot believe my colleagues and I just last week were in an oversight hearing. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Talib, and one of our colleagues across the aisle said the pandemic is virtually over. It is far from over, and we still need measures to keep safe our families and our community. Eviction puts folks in harms way, plain and simple. And as a result of eviction, many families are forced to move into crowded hotels or shelters or onto their neighbor’s couch, where they’re no longer able to socially distance.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: (13:51)
We know that when 27 states lifted their eviction moratoriums in the pandemic, it led to 433,000 preventable cases of COVID-19 and more than 10,000 preventable deaths due to COVID-19. When I say eviction is a policy choice, it’s not just a catchy turn of phrase. We have lost more than 10,000 people that could be with us only if they had remained safely housed. Our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends.
Speaker 6: (14:23)
That ain’t right.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: (14:25)
It ain’t right. And renters don’t deserve less just because they can’t afford more. This is not something abstract for me. I know the trauma of coming home to an eviction notice on the door when I was a child. And if you have never had to face the threat of eviction, if you’ve never been on the verge of losing your home, take my word for it. It is a fate, a fear, and a dehumanization that you do not wish on anyone, especially not during a pandemic.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: (14:59)
What’s going on? Since last year, we’ve been calling on every level of government to step in and protect renters from evictions. Today, we are once again advancing the fight for a light saving eviction moratorium, which is grounded in public health in a matter of racial and economic justice. Evictions are disruptive and violent events that not only destabilize families, but make it harder to rent housing, save housing in the future. To apply for credit, to borrow money, or to purchase a home. This eviction crisis is exacerbating economic injustice for black families across America. Currently, almost a third of black renters are at risk of eviction. Nearly 600,000 seniors, and nearly 20% of senior renters who are people of color are behind on rent and at risk of evictions. We need Congress to act. We can prevent millions of families from being thrown out onto the street and towards-
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: (16:03)
… prevent millions of families from being thrown out onto the street and torn from their homes where they made their memories. Our constituents are looking to Congress, both chambers controlled by Democrats to stand in the gap and to intervene. Some members may think that we passed rental assistance so our job is done. Many of us here have led and championed those efforts and they are meaningful, but without any eviction moratorium in place, while the rental will leave is still getting out the door our work is not done. We will have a homelessness crisis in this country, a national tent city like we’ve never seen before. An eviction tsunami.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: (16:46)
One we’ll be recovering from for decades if we do not act in this economic recovery. Let’s learn from our past mistakes and center the people. An estimated 750,000 renters could be evicted in the next few months. Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House. And being in the majority must be more than a talking point. It’s a decisive majority that has also given us a mandate to act on the interest of the people. We must make that majority actually means something. So let’s pass this bill before it’s too late. And next we will hear from my brother in service, the Commonwealth is representing large up here today. Is he here? There you go. So now we’ll bring to the podium, Senator Ed Markey.
Sen. Ed Markey: (17:37)
Thank you, Ayanna. Thank you for preaching the truth here today. And thank you to Cori Bush for your tireless leadership, your incredible courage to push forward on this life line issue. You are living proof of why we need leadership in Congress that is influenced by lived experience. And we are lucky to have your perspective, your resolve and your spirit. Thank you, Cori Bush, for your great leadership. And again, I’m here with my partners, the great Elizabeth Warren and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts and this incredible all star cast, the people who are standing up here today for those who are most vulnerable in our country. We’re facing an eviction crisis where millions of our neighbors are at risk of being forcibly removed from their homes.
Sen. Ed Markey: (18:33)
With expired federal unemployment insurance and millions of Americans still out of work, we are poised to see an historic and devastating wave of evictions in every corner of our country. But the good news is we do have the power to stop it. Let me be clear. The coronavirus pandemic has not ended and neither should emergency housing protections for those who would be exposed to this disease if they were thrown out onto the streets of our country. We owe it to those millions of families who are struggling to put food on the table, keep the lights on and keep a roof over their heads to pass the Keeping Renters Safe Act and ensure that the eviction moratorium stays in place through the remainder of the public health emergency. While Congress has already provided more than $45 billion for emergency rental assistance programs to assist people to make their rent and utility payments, only $5.1 billion has been distributed.
Sen. Ed Markey: (19:46)
Let me say that again. 45 billion appropriated 5 billion given to the people. That is not right. The people are not responsible for the failures of their government. They should not be evicted because the United States government, the state governments and the local governments did not do their job. The people who should be punished right now are the governments who have not responded to the cries from people who say that they need help for themselves and for their children. That is what this day is all about. It’s to ensure that we pass the legislation that says to principally black and brown and immigrant families who have been most adversely impacted by the coronavirus and they are most disproportionately impacted by an eviction notice that they are going to be protected.
Sen. Ed Markey: (20:49)
They did not create the coronavirus and they did not create this crisis where the funding has not reached them to pay their landlords. Keeping Renters Safe Act will ensure renters can count on a roof over their heads not an eviction notice at their door. That is why we are here today. There is no moratorium on the coronavirus. There is no moratorium on November arriving in five weeks in our country. There has to be a moratorium on evictions in our country to protect those innocent families from things over which they have had no control. So that’s why we’re here today. We thank Cori for her leadership and my job is to introduce a great leader for all of the people every single day of the year, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: (21:48)
Thank you so much, Ed. And Massachusetts is indeed how here tonight. And I think New York is also out here tonight. That’s right. We got Mondaire Jones. We got Congressman Jamaal Bowman. We have our advocates. So Jimmy Gomez, you have to step it up in California/ you’re going to have to rep it. All right. I want to thank everyone, especially our advocates, our leaders out here. Just give it up for you all. Thank you so so much for leading us in this fight. Lot of people, sometimes the language that’s used here in Washington is framed as though we are leading. But so often we are responding to the leadership of advocates who are setting the pace for the people. So I want to thank folks. I want to thank someone just straight from the movement, leading us right here into those halls of Congress, Representative Cori Bush.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: (22:41)
She has let us use every single tactic that we have, whether it is legislative, whether it is sleeping on the steps of the Capitol in order to secure protections. The supreme court may have struck this down unjustly, but her leadership allowed 11 million people to be protected for an entire month, an entire month. And that should never be understated. What we’re here to do is to make sure that we are preventing another secondary pandemic from happening in the United States. The winds up fall and winter are right around the corner. And as of the beginning of August, we were talking about one in every six renters in the United States facing eviction. Now so often and so many of us know what it’s like to go home and try to flick on the lights at night and nothing turns on or to have an eviction notice posted to your door.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: (23:42)
And the reason some of these issues are so under-discussed, I was just speaking with one of our leaders that you’ll be hearing from in a few moments, Ms. Vivian Smith. That we are taught to internalize that as shame. We don’t speak about these issues because we have been taught that an eviction notice at our door or turning on the lights when they’re off is a result of an individual shortcoming. When we’re talking about one in six renters in this country facing the street, 11 million people in the United States, that’s more than the entire population of New York City being evicted overnight. That is not an individual shortcoming, that is a systemic failure. And so when we talk about folks being kicked out in the street, it is not them who should be feeling shame, it is this institution that should be feeling shame.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: (24:36)
And so we are here to right that wrong, to make that crooked path straight because evictions do not just affect the evicted. When you wake up in the morning and the person who is preparing your coffee this morning was sleeping in a car last night, does that make you safer? Does that make you more shielded from the pandemic, from a variant whose transmission could be as low as five to 10 seconds in order to transmit when our population is not yet vaccinated to the degree that it needs to be? We have to protect people’s right to housing in the United States. We will feel the repercussions for years if not decades to come if we do not. And I also want to rectify some of the myths that are sometimes told about folks on the brink of eviction. The idea that there are so many jobs out there, why don’t folks just get a job? People who are facing eviction are employed, but we live in a country where minimum wage does not pay rent in a single state in the United States of America.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: (25:46)
Telling someone to get a job when they’re about to be evicted is to communicate that you’re not living in this country at this time, not living in the same reality as most other people. We must institute this eviction moratorium. I’m so proud of Congressman Bush and Senator Warren for helping us lead the way on this. The supreme court said the administration does not have the authority to issue an eviction moratorium. So what are we going to do? Give them that authority. That’s all we want to do. Have Congress give the administration the authority to institute a moratorium because it impacts our health housing, the primary indicator, social indicator of health. It makes us sicker when we are unhoused. It makes us healthier when we are. So with that, I want to thank you all. I want to thank all of our partners in this fight. And I’m so proud to introduce one of our newest freshmen from the New York delegation doing us all so proud every day, along with Jamaal Bowman, Congressman Mondaire Jones.
Mondaire Jones: (26:57)
Well, that’s hard to go after. It always is. But it is a joy and an honor be surrounded by so many people who have been leading the movement and doing the lion’s share of the work in this country to ensure that everyone can live in dignity in the richest nation, in the history of the world. Last month, I proudly stood alongside incredible leaders like representative Bush and fought to keep as many as 11 million Americans from becoming homeless or unhoused. We said then that we would use every tool at our disposal to keep folks housed. And we meant it. I hope you see that today. I’m proud to stand by her side and alongside all of my colleagues behind me. And of course, all the brilliant activists who have been doing God’s work to get us to this place even before people started paying attention to the expiration of the eviction moratorium.
Mondaire Jones: (27:53)
As we continue this fight by introducing the Keeping Renters Safe Act, it was only a few weeks ago that we all stood here together after the eviction moratorium had expired. Many members were already back in their districts and the White House claimed that its hands were tied, though we knew better. We refuse to take no for an answer. We couldn’t just go home while millions of people were at risk of being kicked out of theirs. And after five long days staying out on the Capitol steps, our calls were finally heard and the CDC at our urging and at the direction of the White House reinstated an eviction moratorium. Despite how hard we fought and the many days that we stayed out on those steps, we know that the story does not end there. Just days after we got the CDC to extend the moratorium, or I should say just a month after, the far right, 63 super majority on the Supreme Court of the United States in a dangerous partisan and poorly reasoned, I would submit, decision once again put many millions of people at risk of being unhoused.
Mondaire Jones: (29:13)
In the world’s richest nation no one should have to experience housing insecurity. The housing crisis, as you’ve heard again and again today is a policy choice and all of us ran to make better, more empathetic policy choices. For the last year and a half, the eviction moratorium has kept millions of Americans struggling to pay rent, safe and housed amid the worst public health crisis in at least a century. And the same is true for the economic crisis that we now face. As the Delta variant continues to ravage this nation and the world and the people who bear the brunt of the housing crisis find themselves bearing the brunt of that pandemic, we must do everything that we can to keep people safe, especially in communities of color, which are being most impacted as you’ve heard today as well. We have a moral obligation to do this to ensure that every person remains safe and housed for the duration of this pandemic and, get this, long after the pandemic is over, because housing is a right and we can afford to do that.
Mondaire Jones: (30:34)
Congress is going to vote on a defense bill this week, my goodness. Just a fraction of that could be used to house all the people who are currently unhoused in this country. Don’t tell me we can’t afford to do that when we spend money in this place every single day. By giving the federal government the explicit power to issue an eviction moratorium, we are ensuring that never again can this rogue Supreme court majority or any other court say that Congress has not authorized the executive branch to act to save as many as 11 million people from being unfairly forced out of their homes and thrown onto the streets. It never should have had to come to this, but here we are. When we said we were going to do whatever it took, we meant it. And I’m so grateful to do this work in partnership with friends like Representative Ilhan Omar of the great state of Minnesota who is now going to speak a few words.
Rep. Ilhan Omar: (31:37)
Thank you, Mondaire. I want to associate myself with the righteous words of my colleagues. It is an honor to be here with representative Cori Bush and Senator Warren. Thank you so much for introducing this legislation and for your leadership. It is also just-
Rep. Ilhan Omar: (32:01)
It is also just remarkably beautiful to see all of these amazing leaders across the country who have been advocating on behalf of renters far longer than this pandemic and continue to do this in the harshest moments of our nation’s history. I stand here as a lifelong renter, as someone who knows what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, to worry if this month you will have enough money to stay in your home, and as someone who spent much of her childhood without a home, running water or electricity. No one deserves to be thrown out of their home, especially in a country with over 600 billionaires and some of the most extravagant wealth in the history of the world.
Rep. Ilhan Omar: (33:12)
The pandemic is not over, as you’ve heard over and over again from my colleagues. Our people are still hurting. We had one of the worst job growth in months this month. Millions remain jobless. We need our government to act like it. As we speak, people in my district and across the country are being forced to pay thousands of dollars in back rent that they couldn’t afford then and can’t afford now. We should not have let this moratorium lapse. We should have canceled rent and mortgage payments.
[crosstalk 00:34:04]. That’s right!
Rep. Ilhan Omar: (34:06)
Ayanna earlier said this eviction and evictions are policy choices, and oftentimes we find ourselves debating with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make policy choices that are just, that are equitable and efficient. So the fact that we have released $45 billion and only $5 billion of that is spent tells you we did not pass legislation that was going to be effective.
Right! [crosstalk 00:34:46].
Rep. Ilhan Omar: (34:47)
So I believe we should be fully reinstating this moratorium and giving this president and this administration the broad authority to do so moving forward. I can’t tell you just how proud I am to have stood with, spent a few nights with, and shared just a moment of vulnerability with so many of our colleagues who, unlike our colleagues who chose to leave and not act on expanding this moratorium, personally understood that when people invest in you to be their voice in Washington that you must actively do everything that you can to be the best voice possible for them.
Yes! [crosstalk 00:35:51].
Rep. Ilhan Omar: (35:51)
And so I know we take a lot of flack. People might not appreciate our tactics, our advocacy, but what I know to be true is that as someone who spent many years as an advocate and an activist, I’ve always wanted to have the kind of legislators we have been representing me, so thank you.
Rep. Ilhan Omar: (36:16)
Oh, [inaudible 00:36:21]. Sorry. Next, we will have Representative Gomez from the great state of California.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez: (36:28)
Thank you. Thank you so much, and I just first want to say thank you to my colleagues in the House. Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, and also Cori Bush. Cori Bush did … This was an issue that we’ve been fighting for for months, extending each eviction moratorium; at first by sending letters, by making phone calls, and we were successful. But when we were not, we had to switch strategies, and it was because of Cori Bush’s leadership that we decided to stay on the steps.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez: (37:13)
I had already gone home and decided to rush back to make sure that I followed through on that fight, and it was an important fight because it told people that we still cared. It didn’t matter if we hit one obstacle, but it was going to be, make sure we’re going to keep going no matter how big that obstacle. And you know what? We did make a difference. Extending that moratorium did help people in their hardest of times to make sure that they weren’t evicted.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez: (37:43)
I had renters’ rights workshops in LA when I got back to tell them about their rights, but I had advocates tell me that they had clients that were protected because of this action, because of what we finally got to do. But here’s the thing: it’s also about lived experience, and Cori Bush’s lived experience matters, but you don’t have to have been on the streets to care. You just have to imagine yourself in their shoes, in their car, in their tent. You just have to imagine how hot it is right now to understand that if you’re on the streets day after day, it takes a beating, not only on your health, but your mental soundness and your financial wherewithal to get back on your feet.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez: (38:35)
I represent the city of LA, the east side and downtown. We have one of the largest homelessness crises is in the country. 48,000 people, 68,000 in the county. And if we allow more people to end up on the streets, it hinders our ability to get the people who already need the help into housing as quickly as possible. So this is not just about the people who are housed, but it’s also about the people who are currently still living on the streets, and we need to make sure that we continue to think about them in everything we do.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez: (39:09)
And for people who don’t think, “Oh, this has nothing to do with healthcare or people’s health,” I’ve taken tours of the LA County General and when they bring in a patient, they have risk factors, and now in the city of Los Angeles, one of the risk factors, not just hypertension, not drug abuse, not other things that people do, but housing. Homelessness is now a risk factor. Think about that. This crisis has gotten so bad that now doctors will ask you if you’re living on the streets or not. That is what we’re facing.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez: (39:52)
So what we’ve done during the pandemic was good, but not good enough. We need to do more, and this Keeping Renters Safe Act will help do that. It will allow an administration, not only this one, but future administrations to move faster when there is a crisis. Because there will be another healthcare crisis in this country when it comes to a pandemic, and if people think that this one has passed, they’re sadly mistaken. And the people that tend to say it’s past are often the ones in the states with the highest infection rates and the highest death rates, so they’re not people you should probably be listening to for advice on how to handle this pandemic.
Rep. Ilhan Omar: (40:32)
They’re not living in reality.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez: (40:33)
They’re not living in reality. So we’re going to keep pushing. We’re going to take the outside activism on the inside, and we’re not going to give up until we protect every single renter in this country. With that, I would like to introduce a long time fighter in Congress. She might be short, but she is powerful! And that is the great-
Speaker 7: (40:56)
I don’t believe [inaudible 00:40:59] is here, so you want to go to …
Rep. Jimmy Gomez: (41:02)
Oh, that’s the great Vivian Smith! Vivian?
Woo! We got your back! We got your back, Vivian!
Vivian Smith: (41:13)
My name is Vivian Smith. I’m a leader with the Miami Workers Center. I’m a member-based organization in Miami, Florida, where workers and renters demand the respect, the resources our community need and deserve. I am proud to be here today as a part of a historical delegation of tenants organized through the Home Guaranteed Campaign. There are 11 of us who have made this trip to Washington, DC from all over the United States. We represent millions more like us who has faced a pandemic eviction of our life, ruining [inaudible 00:42:03].
That ain’t right! That ain’t right!
Vivian Smith: (42:08)
I live in Miami the whole life. I was in foster care, released at the age of 18. From then on, I had no one to lean on. I was a young single mother with four kids and one deceased. I worked at the Amazon fulfillment center standing on my feet 10 hours to 12 hours a day.
Vivian Smith: (42:40)
At the beginning of the pandemic, the warehouse were infested with viruses, and I wasn’t able to keep working. I didn’t want to risk my health or my kids’ health. I fell behind on my rent. When I did come up with the money, the landlord didn’t want it.
That ain’t right! That ain’t right! [crosstalk 00:43:07].
Vivian Smith: (43:07)
He didn’t want to take it. They took me to eviction court. I was haunted by my past experience of living in my car with my kids. I didn’t want to be homeless. The last time I lived in my car after the hurricane, I got lost in the system. I was displaced from my home. I would work from 5:00 AM to 1:30 PM, pick up my kids, and then I would start another job from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM at night. I would go to the restaurant called [Esther’s 00:43:56] and I would use baby wipes to clean up me and my girls. Other times we would go to nice hotels, walk in there as though if I had a room, wash up in their bathrooms and walk out with my night clothes on.
Vivian Smith: (44:15)
I used to wonder, “God, how could you give me these kids and make me homeless? Why did I have to get an eviction for trying to take care of the kids you gave us? What is this in my life that always I’m losing my place?” Once I saw I was falling behind on bills, I had to go back to work, even with the high risk of getting sick. My kids say, “It can’t be Mom that gets sick. She got to take care of us.” But I’m trapped working while there’s over a thousand cases, COVID, in my state every day.
Vivian Smith: (45:13)
I’ve been forced to choose between food, rent too many times. Many of us had to make the choices between our health or our homes. The rent eat first.
That ain’t right! [crosstalk 00:45:32].
Vivian Smith: (45:32)
The first times I would buy my kids, 4 for $4 from Wendy’s. I would eat what was left and I would drink a lot of soda to fill up. I would lay my seat back and try to sleep. Once you get an eviction, it is hard for you to live. No one will rent to you again. No one.
That ain’t right! [crosstalk 00:46:02].
Vivian Smith: (46:02)
There are application fees, slumlords; you lose things because you can’t pay for storage, and it’s not material things. It is my soul. Every time I lose a bit of myself. I want you to imagine if you had a family and you had to go through that. Close your eyes for me for one second, and imagine that no one should have to make these choices. Tenants like me need Congress to act with urgency to pass an eviction moratorium. End all evictions, at least until the public health emergency is over. The pandemic is not our fault. Our evictions are not our fault. The fault of the system that treats us like an investment. Today, we need Congress to pass a full eviction moratorium. Tomorrow, we need a national Bill of Rights written by tenants like me.
That’s right! [crosstalk 00:47:29].
Vivian Smith: (47:28)
To forever change the balance of the power between us and these so-called landlords. Thank you Representative Bush and Senator Warren for your leadership, and thank you, I believe that we all can win. Thank you.
[crosstalk 00:47:44] The most important words [crosstalk 00:47:57].
Rep. Barbara Lee: (48:00)
Well, first of all, I’m Barbara Lee. I represent the-
Rep. Barbara Lee: (48:03)
First of all, I’m Barbara Lee. I represent the 13th Congressional District of California, including Oakland and Berkeley, California. I just want to speak to Vivian. Vivian.
Rep. Barbara Lee: (48:15)
Vivian, let me just say to you, you have born witnessed as to why we are here at the today. And also you have reminded us, and your delegation, that this is your government and your government must respond.
That’s the hope.
Speaker 8: (48:30)
Rep. Barbara Lee: (48:30)
… and I want to remind you of what our sister Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley always says, and that is, “The people closest to the pain must be closest to the power.”
Speaker 8: (48:40)
Rep. Barbara Lee: (48:40)
And so I have to salute you today. All of us, thank you. We know it’s difficult. Congresswoman Bush, we know what’s taking place in terms of this press conference and the trauma of being unhoused, the trauma of not knowing where you’re going to live the next day, the trauma of worrying about taking care of your children. So I just have to thank you for being brave and for being bold. And to yourself, Congresswoman Bush, thank you so much for bringing us all together [crosstalk 00:49:09]
Speaker 9: (49:08)
Thank you, Vivian.
Rep. Barbara Lee: (49:08)
Thank you, Vivian.
Speaker 9: (49:08)
Vivian, we have your back!
Speaker 10: (49:23)
Vivian, we have your back baby! [inaudible 00:49:23]
Rep. Barbara Lee: (49:27)
Vivian really has said all that needs to be said. So I’ll be very brief. Let me thank Congresswoman Bush, of course, Senator Warren and all of our colleagues who have been fighting so, so hard to protect people’s right to a roof over their head. And also, we all know that Congresswoman Bush has shown so much courage and bravery to fight for her constituents and for vulnerable communities across the country.
Rep. Barbara Lee: (49:55)
Congresswoman Bush, I just want to thank you for your bold action, which allowed other members to be bold, to come here to the Capitol steps, to really stake out the turf until the job is done. And so, you do get the job done. And also, Corey, you have pricked the conscience of the nature and this place here. So, thank you very much for continuing to fight the good fight on behalf of this country.
Rep. Barbara Lee: (50:20)
And what we’re fighting for really is very basic. It’s basic human rights. Basic human rights. No family should have to struggle to keep a roof over their head, especially in the middle of a once in a lifetime public health and economic crisis. Protecting people’s homes is just as important as prioritizing public health as an economic security.
Speaker 10: (50:43)
Speaker 8: (50:44)
Rep. Barbara Lee: (50:45)
And Congresswoman Bush, Vivian, all of you, you’re building a coalition of conscious, a coalition of people who are passionate about fighting for human rights in our own countries, and I’m so proud to be part of it. And let’s be clear, I want to mention my district also. Housing is a crisis in my district, in the golden state of California, more unhoused people than ever before. It’s a crisis in each and every one of our districts across the country. That’s why it’s so important for Congress to up and do its job to protect the people who elected us to represent. It’s a people’s movement and we’re not going to stop until the basic right to safe shelter is protected during this crisis. So we’re going to keep fighting, the time is now because you know what? When we fight, we win. When we fight-
Speaker 8: (51:39)
Rep. Barbara Lee: (51:39)
When we fight-
Speaker 8: (51:39)
Rep. Barbara Lee: (51:39)
Thank you again. Thank you, Vivian. Thank you, Cori. Thank you.
Rep. Cori Bush: (51:54)
What time is it? Oh, we have… We just have a few minutes. I would like for my sisters in service to step up and, Representative Bowman and Jones and Gomez, all of you to come up. We’re going to answer a few questions. So let me first say to Vivian and to all of you who came today, when we arrived, you all started telling your stories. And it’s a traumatic thing to go through it, it’s a whole other traumatic thing to talk about it and to have to continue to relive it, especially when you are still in it. And so we want to lift you all up right now and know that this work is not for show. This work is for your safety so you can stay in their homes. This thing is not a play thing that we’re doing. We want to make sure that you have safety today and safety tomorrow. Thank you for your courage to speak up.
Rep. Cori Bush: (53:10)
Also, we want to highlight, uplift our staff. We weren’t the only ones out there-
Ayanna Pressley: (53:20)
Rep. Cori Bush: (53:21)
… sitting up trying to stay awake because Capitol Police wouldn’t let us go to sleep. We weren’t the only ones. It was our staff that were out there with us in the trenches, cold, rain, heat. So we want to thank our staff. We want to thank the staff for helping us with this working on this legislation and working with all of the groups. We have more than 80 advocacy groups that have endorsed this legislation. So thank you to our staff. Now we’ll open it up for a few questions. We just have a few minutes. We can get started.
Speaker 11: (54:04)
Congresswoman, you say this legislation will essentially stop death and infection from COVID-19 by stopping evictions because people aren’t being stuffed into hotels and shelters. So my question is, do you also support unvaccinated migrants being sent back to their homes so that they aren’t being stuffed in hotels and shelters to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives?
Rep. Cori Bush: (54:27)
Our work right now is to make sure… This bill is about making sure that the authority is given to HHS to make the decision that during a pandemic, a global pandemic, that people are able to stay safely in their homes. We care about children. We care about adults. We care about our elders. We care about the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Thank you.
Speaker 12: (54:49)
To that question, but first is, why has Congress [inaudible 00:54:59] so ineffective to get money out to people, and is there anything Congress can do to get the money up faster. And second, a lot of you mentioned, obviously you [inaudible 00:55:07] emergency response program that ended and unemployment insurance also ended. Why has that not been a priority as Democrats negotiate the reconciliation bill?
Rep. Cori Bush: (55:15)
So that’s two parts. I’ll open it [crosstalk 00:55:19].
Ayanna Pressley: (55:19)
Rep. Cori Bush: (55:19)
Ayanna Pressley: (55:19)
Congresswoman, do you want to take the second part? As a member of leadership, okay. Many of us here serve on the Financial Services committee, and last week during markup we heard a story about a grandmother living on a fixed income and receiving supplemental support from her granddaughter to have a quality of life, so that she would not be choosing between rent and life saving prescription drugs.
Ayanna Pressley: (55:50)
Prior to Treasury changing the guidance to make it less onerous and burdensome for renters to prove that they have a need, a grandmother like that was really struggling to prove because she didn’t lose a job. So, this is some of what we’ve come up against and why it has taken longer to get the funds out. But we need time. We have appropriated the funds we need to get the funds out. And, this is unprecedented in every way, some states had to have the infrastructure bill. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, about 33% of our funds are out. So we already had some preexisting infrastructure. But honestly, we’ve been recalibrating in real time. And I think the Treasury streamlining those guidelines and making it less onerous for renters will also go a long way. Okay.
Rep. Barbara Lee: (56:49)
With regards to the negotiations, you can be guaranteed with certainty Congresswoman Maxine Waters is in there fighting to make sure that we have a substantial amount in terms of investments for affordable housing and addressing the housing crisis. You all know the dynamics of what’s taking place, but we know for sure that that’s on the table and that the negotiations are going forward and it’s a big priority for her and all of us.
Ayanna Pressley: (57:13)
[crosstalk 00:57:13] One more thing that I left-
Speaker 12: (57:15)
[crosstalk 00:57:15] prioritized?
Ayanna Pressley: (57:17)
It’s been a priority. I mean look, the hardship is unprecedented in every way. I can’t believe that we’re having to work to legislate humanity, but that is what we’re having to do in this moment. To do whatever we can to mitigate the hardship, to alleviate the heartache and the trauma that people from every walk of life are experiencing. And I left out the most important part of that story about that grandmother, her granddaughter that was providing supplemental income lost her job. Okay? So she lost her job during the pandemic and that grandmother was struggling to make the case for why she should be eligible for the Emergency Rental Assistance Fund. But again, we changed that and streamline those guidelines.
Rep. Cori Bush: (57:53)
Okay. One more question.
Speaker 13: (57:55)
Congresswoman, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer an hour or two ago was asked how large the reconciliation package should be, could be. And he said they were waiting to see what the Senate would support. Now, I know that Senator Manchin has talked about maybe a trillion and a half, close to 3.5 trillion. I just wondered if you’re concerned about this process and whether there’s a number below which you won’t go and you would not support the package?
Rep. Cori Bush: (58:25)
We are concerned about the process. I’ll speak for myself. I can’t speak to my colleagues, definitely. But we are concerned about the process. But as we’re concerned about that, we’re also making sure that this moratorium… Because as much as we… We’re trying to do all the things at once, making sure that reconciliation happens and that passes before we vote on bipartisan infrastructure. But as we’re doing that, we’re working to make sure that people can stay in their homes. It’s not one of the other, so we’re trying to do all of those things at once. I don’t know if anyone else wants to add that, but our focus right now with this press conference is making sure that the word is out that we need renters to stay in their homes. And we want to make sure that landlords aren’t foreclosed on. Okay. Yes. Yes. Okay. And you know what? I’ll take one more real quick question and then we’ll close. One more quick one.
Speaker 14: (59:24)
I was just going to ask, right before the August recess House Democratic leaders struggled to be able to get the votes needed to extend the initial eviction moratorium. My question is why do you believe that this is legislation to have a different outcome?
Rep. Cori Bush: (59:39)
Because this one says that Health and Human Services has that permanent authority. So this one is making sure that those that are actually doing the work dealing with Health and Human Services, where this falls under, have the proper authority to be able to move forward with… Especially when we’re talking about a public health crisis, to be able to move forward with an eviction moratorium.
Rep. Cori Bush: (01:00:04)
This is about saving lives. And I think that because we’re saying you are the authority, so we’re making sure that you have the authority, I think that that’s what makes this different. Also, this is something that has to happen. This has to happen, and so we won’t stop until it happens. And so hopefully our colleagues will recognize that and we’ll keep pushing.
Rep. Cori Bush: (01:00:28)
Also, I want to thank all of our other colleagues who are out here. I see Representative Stansbury, and I saw someone else out here…
Speaker 14: (01:00:36)
Rep. Cori Bush: (01:00:36)
… Representative Bowman didn’t speak.
Jamaal Bowman: (01:00:39)
Rep. Cori Bush: (01:00:42)
Thank you all so much for being here and thank you to all of our advocates. Have a good one.