On Tuesday, the CDC issued a new eviction ban that would pause evictions until October 3, affecting households in 90% of the country.
The new ban comes after public officials spread the blame for letting a Trump-era moratorium expire this past Saturday. Millions of Americans were poised to be kicked out of their homes, as the coronavirus spreads with an even more infectious Delta variant.
The CDC’s order applies to communities where community transmission of COVID-19 is “substantial or high.” The rationale is that the order responds to “recent, unexpected developments in the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the rise of the Delta variant.” This order, the CDC stated, is “intended to target specific areas of the country where cases are increasing, which likely would be exacerbated by mass evictions.”
The new ban was preceded by puzzling, contradictory messages from Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration. The Administration issued a statement last Thursday claiming it was merely the Supreme Court’s decision on June 29 preventing them from extending the moratorium. Congressional representatives then claimed that they expected the Biden administration to handle the issue, so they did not act earlier.
After sharing that Congress “only learned of this” two days before the moratorium expired, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that “the CDC has the power to extend the eviction moratorium.”
Congress failed to get enough votes to act on an eviction moratorium bill sponsored by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA)— a bill Republicans and about a dozen Democrats opposed, according to reports. After the failed vote, House members recessed for 6 weeks, heading for their homes while many everyday Americans were poised to be homeless.
Congresswoman Cori Bush, who has shared her experiences with homelessness, rallied for Congress to pass the bill ahead of the midnight expiration on July 31. She had slept on the steps of the Capitol since the midnight deadline hit to urge her House colleagues to return to the Capitol and pass Waters’s bill. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley joined her in the sleep-in, while Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders expressed their support. Rep. Bush also met with VP Harris to express the urgency of issuing an eviction ban.
To be clear, the CDC’s latest eviction moratorium is a new ban, not an extension of the Trump eviction ban. Issuing the new ban clarifies that the Supreme Court’s June decision may not have legally prohibited a CDC-issued eviction moratorium, contrary to what the Biden-Harris Administration initially implied.
The majority opinion of the Court in June was silent as to whether the CDC could extend the moratorium, as the only issue before the Court was whether to end the Trump-era ban before July 31.
In a concurring opinion, only Justice Kavanaugh offered his reasoning, but concurring opinions are not legally binding, leading some lawyers to question why the Biden administration implied the Court prevented the CDC from extending it in the first place.
Amid the political finger-pointing, housing security for millions of people have been on the brink. Research shows that Black and Latina women are disproportionately harmed by evictions. According to a report co-authored by Eviction author Matthew Desmond, “nearly one in four black renters lived in a county in which the black eviction rate was more than double the white eviction rate,” with Black women 36% more likely to be evicted than Black men.
According to a 2020 report by the Aspen Institute, “an estimated 30 million to 40 million people in the U.S. are at risk of eviction due to the COVID-19 housing crisis.”
The Brookings Institute found that in the 131 metropolitan areas they examined, “there were averages of 1,880,053 eviction filings and 665,668 evictions per year. Each year, an average of 666,396 of these eviction filings (35.4%) and 181,495 of these evictions (27.2%) took place in Black-majority neighborhoods,” though Black Americans make up 13.4% of the U.S. population.
The families spared by the new eviction ban may not all be safe on October 3, as states and local governments have been slow to distribute the $46 billion in rental assistance funds granted by the American Rescue Plan. But they may rest a bit more easily until then.