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Trump Administration Issues Nationwide Ban on Evictions Through End of 2020

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  • 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.

Previous Policies

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)

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Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan

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  • President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus proposal on Thursday.
  • Under the plan, $1 trillion would go to direct relief for Americans. This includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension and $400 weekly increase to federal unemployment benefits, and a $15 minimum wage.
  • The proposal would also allocate $440 billion for aid to local governments and businesses, as well as provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus with more testing and vaccinations, among other efforts.

Biden Outlines Direct Aid in Stimulus Plan

President-elect Joe Biden announced the details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package while speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.

Biden described the package, titled “American Rescue Plan,” as a set of emergency measures to immediately address the country’s economic and healthcare needs. The package will be followed by a second, broader relief package in February, which will aim to address more long-term economic recovery efforts.

Most significantly, $1 trillion — more than half of the funding allocated in the first package — will go to direct relief for Americans. Among other measures, the direct aid provisions in the plan include increasing federal unemployment benefits from $300 a week to $400 a week and extending them from March to September.

Biden’s plan also includes $1,400 stimulus checks to top off the $600 already approved in the December stimulus package. However, eligibility for the direct payments would be expanded to families of non-citizen immigrants as well as families with adult dependents.

Additionally, the proposal includes several other measures targeted at directly helping struggling Americans, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding billions in funding for child care, and expanding the child tax credit to poor and middle-class families.

Broader Goals

As for the broader economic and pandemic-centered measures, Biden’s package would allocate $440 billion for aid to states, local governments, and businesses. It would also provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus, with a major focus on expanding testing and accelerating vaccine distribution.

Biden has set the dual goals of delivering 100 million vaccines and reopening the majority of K-12 public schools in his first 100 days. To meet that objective, his plan includes $20 billion for a universal vaccination program, $50 billion to expand testing, and $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.

The proposal, overall, meets many of the demands for direct aid that Democrats have pushed for months but have been unable to approve with the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats hold the presidency and control of both chambers, many members have urged Biden to ask for an even higher price tag.

Biden, for his part, has said he would like to try for a bipartisan majority on his first piece of legislation, but given Republicans months-long resistance to many Democratic asks, that desire is likely a pipe-dream.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters

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  • More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
  • The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
  • The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.” 
  • Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.

Demands for Investigation

Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.

In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack. 

In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.

They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.

The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.

“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.” 

The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”

Members Under Fire

Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.

In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection. 

Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.

“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”

While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.

“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”

Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office. 

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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House Impeaches Trump By Largest Bipartisan Margin in History

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  • The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
  • Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote in favor of impeachment, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
  • Ahead of the vote, sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he was pleased Democrats were moving forward with a vote because it will make it easier to “purge” Trump from the party.
  • McConnel later said he has not yet decided whether he will vote to convict Trump. Still, he has refused to convene the Senate before Jan. 19, meaning that as of now, there is little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before his term ends.

House Debates Impeachment

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.

All Democrats voted in favor of the single article. They were also joined by 10 Republicans, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.

The decision was debated on the floor after Vice President Pence rejected Democrats’ calls to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.

Most notable among the Republican members who voted to impeach was Liz Cheney (R-WY), the number three House Republican who announced her decision Tuesday night.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.

Questionable Path in Senate

No Republican Senators have publicly said they support removing Trump from office.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party.”

Sources separately told Axios that “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell would vote to convict Trump.

McConnell responded to the reports earlier on Wednesday but did not outright dispute many of the claims.

“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.

As for whether or not other members of the GOP would follow suit, a top Republican close to McConnell also told Axios that “Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump. 

Additionally, McConnell’s advisers have said that he has “privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict.” Notably, it would most likely require 17 Republicans to join Democrats in order for Trump to be found guilty.

In regards to a timeline, the Senate is in recess and not set to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. McConnell has rejected calls to ask that members return before then, meaning that as of right now there is very little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before he leaves office.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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