CDC announces new 60-day eviction freeze for most counties

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new 60-day eviction moratorium in counties where COVID-19 transmission is either “substantial” or “high.”

The order from CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has an initial expiration date of Oct. 3, but can be extended or rescinded based on changes in the spread of the virus. According to agency data, 80.87 percent of US counties are currently experiencing “substantial” or “high” transmission, defined by the CDC as at least 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

“The emergence of the Delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated,” Walensky said in a statement. “This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads.

“It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” she added. “Such mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.”

The new moratorium includes criminal penalties for landlords who turn out tenants in the affected counties. An eviction that “does not result in a death” can result in a fine of up to $100,000 and one year in prison, while an eviction that does result in a death would lead to a fine of up to $250,000 and one year in prison.

The new moratorium replaces a previous freeze that expired Saturday after Congressional Democrats failed to garner enough support for an extension before House members left DC to begin their August recess.

The eviction moratorium would be in effect for about 80 percent of counties in the United States.
The eviction moratorium would be in effect for about 80 percent of counties in the United States.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The White House had urged Congress to pass legislation extending the moratorium after the Supreme Court decided in June that the CDC overstepped its authority by enacting the ban. The court left the moratorium in place through July 31 in a 5-4 ruling but one of the five, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, warned that extending the freeze beyond that date would require legislation from Congress.

Hours before the CDC announced the new freeze, President Biden admitted to reporters at the White House that he thought it unlikely a new moratorium imposed by the executive branch would survive a legal challenge.

“I’ve sought out constitutional scholars to determine, what is the best possibility that would come from executive action or the CDC’s judgment?” he said. “What could they do that is most likely to pass muster, constitutionally? The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster, number one. But there are several key scholars who think that it may, and it’s worth the effort.”

Biden added that the new moratorium “will probably give some additional time” for state and local governments to hand out nearly $45 billion in unspent rental assistance money included in coronavirus relief bills to assist renters and homeowners.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the new moratorium marked “a day of extraordinary relief.”

“Thanks to the leadership of President Biden, the imminent fear of eviction and being put out on the street has been lifted for countless families across America, she said, adding: “Help is Here!”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) reacted with outrage, tweeting that the new moratorium was “Unconstitutional — and they know it.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) tweeted that the ban “lacks both a legal basis and an economic justification.”

The eviction moratorium initial expiration date is October 3, 2021.
The eviction moratorium initial expiration date is October 3, 2021.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

“Congress appropriated $47 billion of rental assistance to address this exact problem,” Toomey added. “The admin’s time would be better spent dealing with its failure to get money owed to landlords rather than papering over its failures with illegal actions.”

National Apartment Association president and CEO Bob Pinnegar said the organization “has always held the same position — the eviction moratorium is an unfunded government mandate that forces housing providers to deliver a costly service without compensation and saddles renters with insurmountable debt.”

With Post wires

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