A federal judge tossed the eviction moratorium enacted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, ruling that the health agency did not have the authority to halt rental evictions across the country because of the threat of the virus.
The federal ruling affects the moratorium on landlords evicting many tenants around the country for pandemic-related reasons, which the federal government justified through the Public Health Services Act. The court, however, disagreed.
“The Court recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious public health crisis that has presented unprecedented challenges for public health officials and the nation as a whole. The pandemic has triggered difficult policy decisions that have had enormous real-world consequences. The nationwide eviction moratorium is one such decision,” said the court’s ruling.
“It is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic. The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not,” the court ruled.
But the future of the policy remains uncertain, and the Biden administration’s Department of Justice has vowed to appeal the decision.
“The CDC’s eviction moratorium — which Congress extended last December and the CDC later extended through June 30, 2021 — protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton.
“The Department of Justice respectfully disagrees with today’s decision of the district court in Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS concluding that the moratorium exceeds CDC’s statutory authority to protect public health. In the department’s view, that decision conflicts with the text of the statute, Congress’s ratification of the moratorium, and the rulings of other courts,” added Boynton. “The department has already filed a notice of appeal of the decision and intends to seek an emergency stay of the order pending appeal.”
The original eviction policy, enacted in September 2021, followed President Donald Trump’s executive order requesting that the CDC “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 from one state or possession into any other State or possession.”
Although the moratorium was supposed to end on December 31 of 2020, Congress extended it until the end of January before it could expire. The Biden administration’s CDC then extended the policy until the end of March 2021, and then again more recently, until the end of June.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” the White House said in a March statement, reported The Wall Street Journal earlier this year. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings—like homeless shelters—by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of Covid-19.”
This article has been expanded after publication to include additional information.
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