Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in Washington.
In response to appeals from renters’ rights organizations, the Biden administration has extended the eviction moratorium in the United States for another month. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the other hand, believe that this is likely to be the last reprieve.
The order, signed by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Thursday, extends the moratorium through July 31, preventing eviction for millions of renters who were laid off during the pandemic and have struggled to obtain rent relief programs. The moratorium was set to end on June 30, but housing experts and Democratic lawmakers pushed President Biden to extend it to give cities and counties more time to distribute billions of dollars in rental assistance funds provided by Congress.
“The COVID-19 epidemic has posed a historic threat to public health in the United States. Preventing evictions “is a vital step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 by keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or communal settings — such homeless shelters,” according to the CDC.
“This is supposed to be the final extension,” the CDC noted.
The eviction moratorium, which went into effect in September, has been a key safeguard for renters around the country, particularly in Florida, where there is no state eviction moratorium and the eviction process moves quickly. The ban was supposed to continue until the end of 2020 when it was first enacted by former President Trump, but it has been extended several times since then.
According to Central Florida advocates, the extra month will give tenants more time to qualify for the next wave of federally funded rental assistance – $46 billion under the American Rescue Plan — and give local governments more time to disburse it.
“They must submit an application. Breezi Hicks, a staff attorney with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, which assists low-income renters facing eviction, said, “The money is out there.” “And I’d like to dispel the idea that simply because you’ve applied [for a previous program], you can’t apply for it again. It’s not a one-and-done situation.”
Her firm will walk tenants through the application procedure and represent them in eviction proceedings in court.
According to Census Bureau data, an estimated 6 million people were behind on rent last month, according to the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, a network of over 850 local, state, and national groups led by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, as well as a group of 41 federal lawmakers penned letters to President Biden. Lifting the prohibition before the American Rescue Plan funding can be used, according to the groups, would “undermine the extraordinary investments Congress and the Biden administration have made to respond to this disaster.”
These lawmakers also pushed Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enhance the moratorium by making its safeguards automated. Currently, tenants must sign and deliver a particular document to the court and their landlord, which is accessible in a dozen languages. It verifies that they have been financially impacted by the pandemic and are unable to pay rent, that they have attempted to obtain government aid and made partial payments, and that if they are evicted, they will become homeless or be forced to move in with friends or relatives.
Despite legal challenges by landlord and realtor groups, the CDC claims that delaying evictions is important to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 600,000 people in the United States. People who are evicted may be forced to live with friends or family, go to homeless shelters, or live on the streets, according to Nina B. Witkofsky, acting chief of staff for the CDC at the time the order was issued, potentially exposing them to the virus and increasing their chances of spreading it to others.
Eviction Lab, a charity that has been tracking evictions across the United States during the epidemic, found that neighborhoods with high eviction rates also had lower vaccination rates. The Orlando Sentinel and the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies revealed that in Central Florida zip codes with high percentages of Black inhabitants, the eviction rate was much higher than in mostly white areas, based on court and Census Bureau statistics.
“The federal moratorium’s impact cannot be overstated, and strengthening and extending it is an important matter of health, racial, and economic justice,” lawmakers wrote in their letter.
The pandemic has only worsened an already urgent scarcity of affordable rental housing in Central Florida, where low-wage workers in the amusement parks and hospitality industries have been laid off for long periods of time. According to the Heart of Florida United Way, 3,100 people have phoned the agency’s 2-1-1 helpline for housing assistance in the last 30 days.
If a tenant produces paperwork to the court, Judge Eric DuBois of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orange and Osceola counties declared that simply requesting for rental assistance may be enough to stop an eviction action.
“I don’t want to grant carte blanche,” he continued, “but if someone told the judge they had an application pending… I don’t see [the judge] booting someone out.”
Most officials anticipate legal challenges to the moratorium’s extension, which would likely take longer to resolve than the moratorium’s additional month. The federal government is currently appealing a decision by U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich in Washington, D.C., who found that the CDC went above its power when it delayed evictions. According to the New York Times, the White House is concerned that losing the appeal while the ban is still in effect will “expose the order to a judgment that may limit presidential measures during future crises.”
As a homeowner, you can maximize this period to stop your home from being foreclosed. There are important steps you have to take, therefore, ensure you do the right thing on time.
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