This past Wednesday, the Department of Justice argued in a court filing that the moratorium on eviction in the U.S. should not be halted. This took place just a few hours after a federal judge ruled that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had completely gone beyond its power by starting the policy in the first place.
This past September, the moratorium on eviction was established that stops landlords from initiating evictions on tenants who meet certain criteria and circumstances related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the moratorium finds its roots under former President Donald Trump, the Biden administration has issued extensions to it twice now with the most recent one happening in March.
“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,” acting attorney general for the civil division, Briand Boynton, released in a statement. “Scientific evidence shows that evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half a million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone.”
“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,” continued 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.”
Xavier Beccera, Health and Human Services Secretary and a democrat who oversees the department that heads the CDC, publically challenged the court ruling in an appearance for an interview on MSNBC.
“I believe the president will want to try to correct this, or certainly continue to fight to make sure we don’t see Americans dispossessed and out on the street, not at this time,” Becerra stated, as reported by POLITICO. “We’re making too much success on COVID to go backwards, so I know this administration will be looking for ways to try to make sure we keep people in their homes.”
Before the ruling took place this past Wednesday, the federal government made an argument that the Public Health Services Act did give the power to issue a pandemic-related eviction moratorium, but the courts 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,” stated the court in its 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 ruling concluded.