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Trump Admin Half-Asses An Eviction Moratorium, Hooray!
It could be much worse. Here's hoping Trump doesn't notice.
In one of the weirder developments of the pandemic, the Trump administration has actually done something that will help people, although the only reason it's necessary is that Republicans let the CARES Act expire at the end of July without passing a replacement. As a result, that law's moratorium on evictions ended, and combined with the loss of emergency unemployment benefits, a lot of people who'd been just getting by since the pandemic shut down much of the economy started losing their apartments. On Aug. 8, Donald Trump issued four executive orders to provide something of a band-aid for some of the expired items in the CARES Act, including an order to federal agencies to find ways to help people facing eviction. That order didn't actually ban evictions in itself, but now, under that EO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a public health order that will put a hold on evictions for failure to pay rent, at least until December 31. Yes, the CDC, as we'll get to in a moment.
But first, let us point out yet again that in GODDAMN MAY, THREE AND A HALF MONTHS AGO, Democrats in the House passed a new stimulus bill that extended the eviction moratorium, and a foreclosure moratorium, too, for a full year. Beyond that, the bill included a $100 billion rental assistance fund that would help out both renters and landlords.
As Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told NPR, the CDC eviction moratorium will "save lives and prevent tens of millions of people from losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic." But she also noted that without assistance for all that rent, the order simply moves the financial cliff faced by renters back a few months.
Here's the rationale for having this order come from the CDC: While the coronavirus emergency is in effect, people who can't afford housing might either become homeless, or might have to crowd into a living situation with another family, increasing the risk of spreading infection. So for the sake of public health, the CDC says, no evictions for inability to pay rent. It's not exactly a cure for housing problems caused by the pandemic, because once the end of the year arrives, people will be on the hook for every penny of back rent. But it does provide renters some breathing room while Republicans in Congress decide just how cruel they're willing to be in an election year.
To qualify, renters need to complete a declaration that they've suffered financially due to the pandemic, that they make less than $99,000 a year (double that for couples), and that if evicted, they would have no options other than homelessness or moving in with people in dangerously close proximity. The order still allows evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like criminal activity or losing the 2020 presidential election and having to leave public housing on or before January 20, 2021.
The order also says the government will prosecute landlords who violate the ban, which leads us to think Donald Trump hasn't been briefed on the details.
The big problem is that the CDC order doesn't include any funding at all, which might be an incentive for Republicans to get back to negotiations. Even if they don't give two lukewarm shits for renters, they may be unwilling to leave landlords in the lurch .
Doug Bibby is the president of the National Multifamily Housing Council. He says, "We are disappointed that the administration has chosen to enact a federal eviction moratorium without the existence of dedicated, long-term funding for rental and unemployment assistance."
An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents," Bibby said.
Also, let us all stand back a half step in appreciation of that trade group name, which sounds like it might almost be run by housing advocates, not landlords.
Now it's up to Republicans to come through with money to prevent a housing disaster before New Year's Eve, which doesn't exactly fill us with confidence. For all we know, Trump and Mitch McConnell may decide to drag out a decision on funding until after the election, so they can threaten a homelessness crisis if Joe Biden is elected. But surely they wouldn't be that cynical, right?
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