The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a four-month order to stop all evictions across the country to help families struggling with financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order, which went into effect on Sept. 4 and expires after Dec. 31, 2020, was issued to protect renters from losing their homes and having to possibly put themselves at risk for contracting the virus.
Under this new order, three groups of people are eligible for protection:
- Anyone who earns $99,000 or less this year ($198,000 for couples filing taxes jointly)
- Anyone who received a stimulus check under the CARES Act
- Anyone who did not have to report income to the IRS in 2019 due to low earnings
As long as renters or lessees have made good faith efforts to obtain assistance and make timely payments, yet still cannot pay full rent and would become homeless as a result, they may be eligible for this moratorium.
At the peak of the unemployment crisis in April, 6.2 million people filed for unemployment. As of Aug. 29, that number has dropped to 833,352 people. Many affected families are having a hard time paying their bills, including rent. That is why the CDC set this unprecedented policy under the Public Service Health Act, which gives the agency authority to act in the public interest during a declared public health emergency.
It may seem unusual for a health agency to get involved with economic/public policy like this. However, with a virus that has infected more than 5 million people in the U.S. so far, the CDC looks at possible eviction as a potential health risk during this uncertain time.
“[An eviction moratorium/ban] can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” the CDC wrote in its order. “Eviction moratoria facilitate self-isolation by people who become ill or who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition. They also allow State and local authorities to more easily implement stay-at-home and social distancing directives to mitigate the community spread of COVID-19.”
In addition to making self-isolation and stay-at-home orders easier to follow, the CDC also believes the eviction ban will decrease the number of homeless people needing to gather in public spaces (either in shelters or elsewhere). This, in turn, will hopefully help to reduce the spread of the virus.
It is important for anyone protected under this order to understand this order is meant to delay and not prevent evictions. In other words, any rent that is owed between the dates of the eviction ban will still need to be repaid fully in January 2021. This repayment may also include any fees or penalties outlined in the lease. No financial relief is being offered.
“Hopefully, renters will be working with their housing providers during this period to really start having this communication and work on what’s doable,” said Paula Cino, a vice president with the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), a group that represents landlords. She added that the parties involved should work toward instituting payment plans or other options, “because if a renter just defers all of this until January, that winds up as being a really insurmountable debt at the end of the moratorium period.”
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