White House Announces Sweeping Temporary Ban on Evictions Amid Pandemic

Mimi Nguyen Ly
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
September 1, 2020US News
White House Announces Sweeping Temporary Ban on Evictions Amid Pandemic
President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr arrive at Andrews Air Force Base after a trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Sept. 1, 2020. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

The White House announced on Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is using its authority to impose a temporary eviction moratorium through the end of 2020, following an executive order by President Donald Trump.

“I want to make it unmistakably clear that I’m protecting people from evictions,” Trump said in a statement.

The CDC order (pdf), scheduled to be published on Sept. 4, covers all 43 million residential renters across the nation as long as they meet income eligibility requirements.

In particular, the order applies to renters who qualified for direct payments under the CARES Act, a stimulus bill signed in late March. As such, renters who are eligible include those who earn no more than $99,000 a year, or couples filing joint return who earn $198,000 or less a year. It also applies to renters who did not report income in 2019.

Such renters cannot be evicted “if they have affirmatively exhausted their best efforts to pay rent, seek Government rental assistance, and are likely to become homeless due to eviction,” the White House stated.

The order includes a declaration for renters to sign and pass on to their landlord. The form would be made available on the CDC’s website. The administration warned renters could be “prosecuted, go to jail, or pay a fine” if they lie in declarations.

“Those who benefit from this assistance are still obligated to pay accrued rent or housing payments in accordance with their lease or contract,” the White House announcement said. “Landlords are still permitted to pursue eviction against tenants committing criminal acts, threatening the health or safety of other residents, and damaging property, among other offenses.”

Officials said local courts would still resolve disputes between renters and landowners about whether the moratorium applies in a particular case.

The CDC order intends to prevent evictions in efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 amid the pandemic, the White House noted, adding, “It is essential during the pandemic that Americans have an effective place to quarantine, isolate, and social distance, and evicting people from residences undermines that objective.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a House panel earlier that the measure was to ensure people “don’t get thrown out of their rental homes.”

Brian Morgenstern, a deputy White House press secretary, said Tuesday’s announcement means that people struggling to pay rent due to COVID-19 would not have to worry about being evicted and risking the spread of the disease or exposure to it.

The latest action followed Trump’s executive order issued on Aug. 8, which asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield to “consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”

As unemployment surged to levels unseen since the aftermath of the 1930s Great Depression, a patchwork of federal, state, and local eviction bans has kept renters who could not make payments in homes.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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