- 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)
House Panel Approves Commission To Study Reparations
- In a 25 to 17 vote along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would establish a commission to study slavery reparations for Black Americans.
- Republicans objected to the plan, arguing that it will cost too much money and that it is unfair to make all American taxpayers responsible for the consequences of slavery.
- Democrats pushed back, claiming the modern oppression of Black people still holds roots in slavery, and noting that the bill just creates a commission to study reparations, not implement them.
- While the proposal faces steep odds in the Senate, Wednesday’s historic vote will move the measure to the House floor for a full vote for the first time since it was introduced over three decades ago.
Reparation Commission Achieves First Approval
The House Judiciary Committee voted for the first time on Wednesday to advance a bill that will create a commission to consider paying slavery reparations for Black Americans.
The legislation was first proposed over 30 years ago, and if signed into law, it would create a 13-member commission that would study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination in the U.S. and then give Congress a recommendation for “appropriate remedies” to best compensate Black Americans.
The measure passed the committee 25 to 17 along party lines, as expected, with objections from Republicans, who claimed reparations will cost too much and that they are unfair to Americans who have no history of enslavers in their families.
Democrats pushed back against those assertions, arguing that the federal government does have enough money to take some kind of action. They also noted that the commission will not actually implement any reparations, but rather just look into the options and then make a non-binding recommendation.
There are a lot of different ideas for what reparations could look like. While some support direct cash payments of various sizes, others have argued there are different proposals that might be more realistic to put into law, like no-interest loans for Black homeowners or free college tuition.
“I ask my friends on the other side of the aisle, do not cancel us tonight. Do not ignore the pain, the history and the reasonableness of this commission,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx.), the lead sponsor of the bill, said Wednesday.
Others also condemned the argument that some Americans, particularly those whose ancestors did not directly benefit from owning slaves, should not bear responsibility. They said that this line of thinking ignores both generational wealth, which vastly benefits white Americans over all others, as well as how Black Americans are hurt by modern-day discrimination and oppression that has roots in slavery.
“Slavery was indeed ended 150 years ago but racism never took a day off and is alive and well in America,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said in committee Wednesday.
“You can ask the family members of Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd. Black folks in this country cannot keep living and dying like this. But we’ll be forced to do so if White folks in America continue to refuse to look back at history.”
While many have described the legislation as a flexible first step, any further congressional action will almost certainly be an uphill battle. The committee vote is just the very first step: the proposal still has to go to a vote by the full House, where it is unclear if it will even garner enough support among the House Democrats’ slim majority.
If it were to pass the lower chamber, the bill faces almost insurmountable odds in the 50-50 split Senate, where ten Republicans would have to join all Democrats to break the legislative filibuster.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said that he will start considering when to schedule the vote, though it is unlikely to be considered soon. Hoyer also urged President Joe Biden to use his executive power to create the commission if the legislation fails.
The White House has said that Biden supports the commission, but administration officials have not confirmed whether he would act unilaterally on the subject.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (Vox)
Biden To Pull All U.S. Troops From Afghanistan by Sept. 11
- President Biden declared Wednesday that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, which also marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
- The Afghanistan war is the longest war the U.S. has ever been in. It has resulted in the deaths of 2,400 American troops, injured and killed almost 100,000 civilians, and cost about $2 trillion.
- Some praised the decision as a key step to address seemingly endless wars and promote diplomacy.
- Many experts and defense officials, however, have warned the withdrawal could undermine American goals in the region and embolden the Taliban, which is currently the strongest it has been since the U.S. invasion removed the group from power in 2001.
Biden Announces Troop Removal Amid Growing Violence
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that drew the U.S. into its longest war in history.
“We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” Biden said in an afternoon speech. “It’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for America’s troops to come home.’’
The decision comes as Biden nears the May 1 deadline set under a February 2020 peace deal by the administration of former President Donald Trump to bring the troops home from the war, which has killed nearly 2,400 troops, injured and killed nearly 100,000 civilians, and cost about $2 trillion.
Biden had previously said that it would be hard to meet the date after taking office, but even with the extended timeline, many experts and defense officials have warned against the move.
The U.S. first entered the war to oust the Taliban government, which was harboring al-Qaeda militants involved in planning the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban was removed within months, but the group still had support in parts of the country and steadily regained territory and strength.
Now, almost two decades later, the group is the strongest it has been since the 2001 invasion, and according to reports, controls or has influence over half the country. The situation has also escalated in the months after Trump, during his last week in office, reduced the official number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500, which is the lowest level since 2001.
As the U.S. has scaled down its operations, the Taliban has taken control of major highways and tried to cut off cities and towns in surges that have exhausted Afghan security forces. Violence has also ramped up in recent months.
According to a U.N. report released Wednesday, nearly 1,800 civilians were killed or wounded in the first three months of the year, a nearly 30% increase from the same period last year.
Notably, U.S. intelligence agencies have said that they do not believe Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations present an immediate threat to strike the U.S. from Afghanistan, an assessment that reportedly played a big role in Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces.
However, many experts are more concerned about how the move will impact Afghanistan and its citizens.
Concerns Over Withdrawal
The Pentagon has warned against removing American troops from the region until Afghan security forces can effectively fight back against the Taliban.
As a result, critics of the plan have argued that withdrawal will leave the forces — which have limited capacities and until now have been funded and trained by the U.S. — entirely in the dust
Beyond that, many also worry that the move could undermine the entire goal of the 2001 invasion by empowering al-Qaeda operates that remains in the country and who could become emboldened once the U.S. troops left.
Some experts and Afghan politicians have said that withdrawing from the country without a solid peace deal in place could end in concentrating more power in the hands of the Taliban. After a long delay following the U.S. agreement in February of last year, peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban finally started up in September.
But those talks have since stalled, partly due to Biden’s win and the anticipation of a possible change in policy under the new administration.
While other countries have recently made moves to restart the talks, and there are a number of possible options on the table, nothing is set in stone. American commanders, who have long said a peace deal with the Taliban is the best security measure for the U.S., have argued that the U.S. will need to use the promise of withdrawing their forces as a condition for a good deal.
Now, the U.S. has taken a major bargaining chip off the table, causing concerns that if a deal is struck, the already weakened Afghan government will make key concessions to the Taliban. Many Afghan citizens who oppose the Taliban worry that if the group secures a role in a power-sharing agreement, it could eventually take over the government and re-impose the harsh rule it imposed before the U.S. removed it in 2001. The leadership was particularly tough on women, who were largely barred from public life.
Biden’s decision has sparked a divided front from both political parities, though Republicans have largely remained united against the move.
“It is insane to withdraw at this time given the conditions that exist on the ground in Afghanistan,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday. “A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous. President Biden will have, in essence, canceled an insurance policy against another 9/11.”
Many Democrats, however, have argued that U.S. presence in the region is not helping the U.S. achieve its foreign policy goals, and that if withdrawal is based on conditional approaches, the troops will never be able to leave.
Others have also applauded the plan as a careful solution and will still emphasize diplomatic efforts in the region while simultaneously removing the U.S. from a highly unpopular and expensive war.
“The President doesn’t want endless wars. I don’t want endless wars. And neither do the American people. ” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday. “It’s refreshing to have a thought-out plan with a set timetable instead of the President waking up one morning getting out of bed, saying what just pops into his head and then having the generals having walked it back.”
In a series of tweets Wednesday, Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, said had spoken to Biden, and emphasized that the two nations would continue to work together.
“’Afghanistan’s proud security and defense forces are fully capable of defending its people and country, which they have been doing all along,” he wrote.
The Taliban, for its part, has focused more on the fact that the initial timeline had been delayed.
“We are not agreeing with delay after May 1,” a spokesperson said on television Tuesday. “Any delay after May 1 is not acceptable for us.”
It is currently unclear how that stance might affect the situation, especially when it comes to peace deal negotiations.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (TIME)
Matt Gaetz Reportedly Venmo’d Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Sent Money To Teen
- A report published by The Daily Beast Thursday alleges that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) sent $900 through Venmo to accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, who then used the funds to pay three young women, including one teenager.
- Gaetz is currently under federal investigation as part of a broader inquiry into Greenberg, a former politician who has been charged with 33 counts, including sex trafficking an underage girl.
- Investigators are reportedly looking into the involvement of politicians with women who were recruited online for sex and paid in cash, as well as whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and violated sex trafficking laws by paying for her to travel with him.
- Greenberg’s lawyer did not comment on the new allegations but said Thursday his client would soon enter a plea deal and implied that Greenberg would testify as a witness against Gaetz. Meanwhile, Gaetz has accused The Daily Beast of spreading “rumors, gossip and self-serving misstatements.”
Gaetz’s Alleged Venmo Payments
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) allegedly sent money via Venmo to accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, who then used the money to pay three young women, including at least one teenage girl, according to a new report from The Daily Beast.
Greenberg, a former local Flordia politician and an associate of Gaetz, was indicted last summer on 33 counts, including sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but his lawyers said in court Thursday that he would plead guilty as part of a plea deal.
Legal experts say the move almost certainly indicates that Greenberg plans to cooperate as a witness against Gaetz, who is currently under investigation by the Justice Department as part of a broader probe into Greenberg.
According to The New York Times, among other things, the DOJ inquiry is looking into their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and paid cash, as well as whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him in violation of sex trafficking laws.
Investigators reportedly believe that Greenberg met the women through a website for people willing to go on dates in exchange for gifts and money, and then arranged for them to meet with himself and associates including Gaetz, The Times reported.
The new report from The Daily Beast, published Thursday, appears to support this narrative. According to the outlet, which viewed the transactions before they were made private this week, Gaetz sent Greenberg two late-night Venmo payments totaling $900 in May 2018.
In the text field of the first payment, Gaetz wrote “Test.” In the second, he asked Greenberg to “hit up” a teenager who he allegedly referred to by her nickname. The Daily Beast did not publish the name of the girl “because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.”
The next morning, Greenberg transferred a total of $900 to three different young women using the same app.
One of the transfers was titled “Tuition,” and the other two were both listed as “School.” The Daily Beast also said it was able to obtain “partial records” of Greenbergs Venmo, which is not publicly available.
Those records, the outlet reported, show that the two men are connected through Venmo to at least one other woman who Greenberg paid with a government-funded credit card, and at least two other women who received payments from Greenberg.
Gaetz, for his part, has not directly addressed the latest allegations. A representative from the Logan Circle Group, an outside PR firm, provided The Daily Beast with a statement from the congressman.
“The rumors, gossip and self-serving misstatements of others will be addressed in due course by my legal team,” the statement said, with the firm also informing the outlet that their lawyers would be “closely monitoring your coverage.”
Greenberg’s defense attorney, Fritz Scheller, also declined requests to comment, but during a press conference Thursday, he implied that the plea deal his client is expected to accept spelled trouble for Gaetz.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said.
The Daily Beast story also comes amid reports that that the FBI has widened its probe of Gaetz. According to The Times, sources familiar with the inquiry have said investigators are also looking into a trip he took to the Bahamas with other Florida Republicans and several women.
Sources said the trip took place shortly after Gaetz was elected to Congress in 2016, and that the FBI has already questioned witnesses about whether the women had sex with the men in exchange for money and free travel.
It is illegal to trade sex for something of value if prosecutors can provide the exchange involved force, fraud, or coercion.
The Times also reported that investigators are now additionally looking into Gaetz’s alleged involvement in discussions to run a third-party candidate in a State Senate race to make it easier for an associate of his who was running for the seat to win.
The act of recruiting so-called “ghost candidates” who run for office purely to divert votes from one candidate is not usually illegal. However, paying a ghost candidate is normally considered a violation of campaign finance laws.