The Cinncinati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not have the authority to order a national moratorium on evictions due to COVID-19, which is currently in place and set to expire at the end of July, The Hill reported.
The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel rejected the CDC’s argument that the moratorium was within the agency’s authority and that Congress had given authority to the measure after the fact by making it part of COVID-19 relief legislation.
It also affirmed a lower court ruling that had blocked the freeze in parts of Tennessee since March, but the freeze had not been applied nationwide. It was not clear whether the ruling would have any immediate impact on the moratorium, other than encouraging authorities to let the ban expire.
The ruling seems to be at odds with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that seemed to uphold the ban, rejecting an emergency request from landlords who said the ban was costing them $13 billion nationwide. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said in his majority opinion that he believed the CDC had exceeded its authority with the ban, adding that Congress would have to pass further legislation to extend the ban past July 31.
The moratorium required tenants to swear, under penalty of perjury, that they lost income during the pandemic, that they made their best efforts to pay rent, and that eviction would expose them to overcrowded conditions and put their health at risk.
“I think the real practical significance of this decision today is it puts the CDC in a box. They’re trapped right now,” the landlords’ attorney, Luke Wake, said. “If they had thought about renewing it, which was entirely likely that they would, now they’ve got the Sixth Circuit definitively agreeing with us that they didn’t have statutory authority, and that if they did, it was a constitutional problem.”
There are several reasons why the moratorium, which has been utilized by tens of thousands of renters during the pandemic, should be allowed to expire, even beyond its constitutionality.
First, there is currently $46 billion in aid available to renters and landlords thanks to Biden’s latest COVID-19 relief package, and the U.S. Treasury reported Wednesday that only six percent of that money had been used as of June.
Aid money not reaching renters
The Treasury distributed the money to states, but some states have been slow to get the money to needy renters. Roughly 633,000 households have received aid to date, but that is far less than the seven to eight million who reported that they were in danger of eviction and would not make their next housing payment.
On Aug. 1, when the current moratorium expires, renters will be on the hook for all of their past-due rent payments or face eviction proceedings, so finding a way to get access to aid has become a top priority for many.
Another reason to let the ban expire is that there are currently more than nine million job openings in the economy, nationwide, to help people behind on their rent generate the income they need to get current, with or without government help.
Since conditions have drastically changed since the ban first went into effect, it should be allowed to expire at the end of July or be struck down by the court as one more step toward post-pandemic normalcy.