CDC issues national eviction moratorium

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Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay
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Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

A day after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak extended the state moratorium on evictions for 45 days, the Trump administration announced it would temporarily halt residential evictions nationally to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections through Dec. 31.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin disclosed during a congressional hearing that the order would be issued. It runs through Dec. 31.

“I think you’ll be quite pleased with the impact that it will have,” Mnuchin told Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who sits on the panel.

The order estimates that 30 to 40 million renters are at risk of eviction. “A wave of evictions on that scale would be unprecedented in modern times,” it says.

The halt was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, citing the need to thwart the spread of COVID-19.

“Housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, which then puts individuals at higher risk to COVID-19,” the CDC order said.

The order does not relieve people of obligations to pay rent or preclude the collection of fees, penalties or interest as the result of the failure to pay rent or make timely housing payments.

Under the CDC order, renters must be able to demonstrate that they have “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing,” must demonstrate “substantial loss of income” and/or large medical expenses, and also must demonstrate eviction would render them homeless or force them to seek congregate housing.

Congress passed a ban on evictions earlier this year, but it expired at the end of July.

Like Nevada, multiple states had also placed moratoriums on evictions, though many of those have expired, as Nevada’s was scheduled to do Tuesday.

A national moratorium on evictions “is long overdue and badly needed,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said via twitter. “As we’ve said for 5 months, the very least the federal government ought to do is assure each of us that we won’t lose our homes in the middle of a global pandemic.”

But Yentel also characterized the administration’s action as “a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed,” and called on Congress to enact an additional relief bill.

In Clark County, all $50 million set aside to provide rental assistance is expected to run out, so the application process has been halted. Additionally, a Legislature-approved eviction mediation program through the courts is not up and running yet. Some estimates have put the number of Nevadans at risk of eviction as high as 250,000.

Allison Stevens
Allison Stevens is a Washington D.C. reporter for States Newsroom, a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets that includes Nevada Current.