Trump administration moves to halt evictions during coronavirus

Demonstrators wearing protective masks hold signs during an eviction strike in the Brooklyn borough of New York, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Organizers in at least 15 states are coordinating mass demonstrations targeting banks, corporate landlords, marshals, sheriffs and the courts to protest all who play a role in the eviction process.

Nina Westervelt | Bloomberg | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will invoke its authority to halt evictions through the end of the year in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move – a draft of which was posted to the Federal Register – is the most significant step taken so far by the White House to fend off what experts predict will be a flood of evictions across the country, after enhanced federal unemployment aid and a federal eviction moratorium expired at the end of July.

“President Trump is committed to helping hard-working Americans stay in their homes and combating the spread of the coronavirus,” said Brian Morgenstern, deputy White House press secretary, in a call with reporters Tuesday evening.

“Today’s announcement from his administration means that people struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus will not have to worry about being evicted and risk further spreading of or exposure to the disease due to economic hardship,” Morgenstern said.

Congress and the White House failed to reach a deal earlier this summer on an extension of coronavirus aid, and millions of Americans whose livelihoods have yet to recover from the pandemic effectively saw their financial lifeline cut off on July 31. 

Major questions also still remain as to the feasibility of such a broad moratorium on evictions, especially if there is no money behind the plan to compensate landlords for lost rent.

Housing experts warn that barring landlords from evicting non-paying tenants without compensating them could have a massive destabilizing effect, felt first in the commercial housing market, and then in credit markets as both large and small-scale landlords default on mortgages. 

As talks broke down in early August between House Democrats and the White House over the size and scale of another coronavirus relief bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on President Donald Trump to use his executive power to halt evictions. But she noted that without money to prop up renters and landlords, a moratorium could do as much harm as good.

“He can extend the moratorium, and I hope that he does,” Pelosi said on CNBC on Aug. 6. “But you can’t just extend the moratorium, you’ve got to have money.”

“If they extend the moratorium, people won’t have to pay their rent just yet. It’ll get pushed further down the road, unless we get some money for them to compensate for what they have to get. And that’s not just for the renters, that’s for the landlords,” said Pelosi.

“What good is a moratorium until the end of the year, if you don’t have some money to help pay the rent?” 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. 

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