- The Trump administration announced an order that will ban evictions for millions of Americans through the end of the year.
- The order will be enacted by the CDC with the goal of preventing additional coronavirus spread that could come from forcing people out of their homes and into shelters, shared housing, or other crowded living spaces.
- The rule applies to all people who expect to make less than $99,000 this year, or $198,000 for married couples.
- It is by far the most sweeping action the administration has taken on evictions, and while many housing advocates applauded it, they also said it falls short.
- Notably, the order does not give any aid to renters or landlords, meaning that renters will still be required to pay all the money they owe when the ban ends or face eviction.
New Eviction Ban
The Trump administration issued an order Tuesday that will ban evictions for millions of Americans through the end of the year.
The new rule is by far the most sweeping action the administration has taken to protect renters who have lost their jobs or have taken other financial hits during the coronavirus pandemic.
The order, which is being enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to prevent the additional spread of the coronavirus that mass evictions could create by leaving renters homeless. That’s because mass evictions could force many into homeless shelters, shared housing, or other crowded living spaces.
Under the order, any renter who expects to make no more than $99,000 this year ($198,000 for married couples) or anyone who received a stimulus check under the CARES Act cannot be evicted for failing to pay rent on time.
Renters can still be evicted for other reasons than failing to pay rent, like criminal behavior or property damage. Any landlord who evicts someone for not paying rent can face criminal penalties including fines and jail time.
The order also requires everyone covered under it who is facing eviction to fill out a declaration agreeing to several statements under sworn testimony.
In addition to acknowledging that they meet the income threshold, the declaration also requires all renters to certify that they have “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing,” are unable to make full payments due to loss of household income or wages or “extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses,” and are “using best efforts to make timely partial payments” as close to the full amount as they can afford.
If evicted, qualifying tenants must also confirm that they are “likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because I have no other available housing options.”
Very notably, under that declaration, renters are additionally required to agree that they understand that once the eviction ban ends on Dec. 31, their landlord can require them to pay the full amount of money they owed. If they do not, they can be evicted once the moratorium expires.
In other words, the moratorium does not erase rent payments. If you are a renter, you still owe that rent. This order just makes it so you cannot be evicted for not paying it during a set period of time. That means that if you do not pay rent or only pay partial rent during the moratorium, you will still owe everything you have not paid yet once it’s expired
If you cannot make up all those payments you owe, you can still be evicted for not paying once it ends.
While it may sound extreme, this provision is in line with most, if not all, of the federal and state-level eviction bans that have been put in place throughout the pandemic.
Before Trump’s new order, the most widespread action taken on evictions during the pandemic was a federal moratorium for renters who were residents of buildings and homes with federal mortgages, which was signed into law in March as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act.
That only applied to around one out of every four renters, and because the ban was not based on income, a lot of people were not covered. It still helped millions of Americans, but that moratorium expired at the end of July, and because it coincided with the expiration of other programs like an additional $600 in federal unemployment benefits, many experts were worried that the U.S. was facing an evictions crisis.
To prevent that, the House both extended the moratorium and expanded it to all tenants as part of the $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill it passed back May. However, Senate Republicans broadly rejected that legislation, and when they proposed their own bill in July, it did not include any plans to extend the evictions ban.
Some states had also implemented their own eviction bans that covered more renters than the federal ban did, so some of those were still in place when the federal one ended, but many of those protections have also started to expire. According to reports, right now, only 17 states and D.C. still have those safeguards.
With the federal ban expired and state bans headed the same way, experts predicted at the beginning of August that 30 to 40 million renters were at risk of being evicted in the next few months absent serious intervention.
With negotiations stalled in Congress, Trump took matters into his own hands at the beginning of last month and announced a series of executive actions aimed at helping Americans economically.
Among those actions was an executive order that Trump said would not only expand the moratorium but give more aid to renters. The order did not actually do either of those things.
In reality, it just called on the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the director of CDC to “consider” whether an eviction ban is needed, and called for the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development secretaries to see if they could find any more funds. The order did not promise any more money.
A Bittersweet Moment for Housing Advocates
Following the executive order, many criticized Trump for misrepresenting his policy and also for not doing enough for renters. With the new order, the script has not flipped, and many have praised the president and his administration for putting such widespread safeguards in place to protect renters.
While many housing advocates have applauded the move, they’re still concerned that it falls short in one key place: providing additional aid to renters.
As noted before, renters will still have to pay the full rent at some point. What’s more, Trump’s order even explicitly allows landlords to charge “fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis.”
However, the order does nothing to help people pay that rent, so while people will not be evicted, many will still also be accumulating thousands of dollars of rent-related debts. This fact has lead to some bittersweet reactions from experts and advocates.
“My reaction is a feeling of tremendous relief. It’s a pretty extraordinary and bold and unprecedented measure that the White House is taking that will save lives and prevent tens of millions of people from losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “While an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed.”
Some landlords have expressed serious concerns about Trump’s order because in addition to not giving any aid to renters, the order also does not provide any funds for landlords — many of whom won’t be collecting full rent or even any rent at all from some of their tenants.
According to data from Rentec Direct, a property management information and tenant screening firm, in the first 10 days of August alone, landlords reported taking in almost 30% percent less in rent than during the same period in March.
Housing experts say that if landlords also face financial trouble, it could create problems for the whole market.
“An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents,” Doug Bibby, the president of the National Multifamily Housing Coalition said.
“Not only does an eviction moratorium not address renters’ real financial needs, a protracted eviction moratorium does nothing to address the financial pressures and obligations of rental property owners,” he continued, adding that the “stability of the entire rental housing sector is thrown into question.”
As for how experts think this should be addressed, both Yentel and Bippy have called on Congress to act.
“Congress and the White House must get back to work on negotiations to enact a COVID-19 relief bill with at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance,” Yentel told NPR. “Together with a national eviction moratorium, this assistance would keep renters stably housed and small landlords able to pay their bills and maintain their properties during the pandemic.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)
Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium
The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.
Eviction Freeze Set To Expire
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.
The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.
While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.
In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress.
“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President 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,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Delays in Relief Distribution
The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.
Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.
A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires.
The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape.
Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.
According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 — including New York — had not spent any funds at all.
Slim Chances in Congress
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.
However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.
While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.
Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.
“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”
With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)
Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks
The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.
Pelosi Vetoes Republicans
Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.
In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”
Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden.
A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.
The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.
In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”
Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.
McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation
McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.
In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.”
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel.
“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.