American Bar Association Urges Congress to Provide Aid to Tenants at Risk of Eviction

September 9, 2020 by Daniel Londono
Natasha Blunt poses for a portrait in New Orleans. Blunt said she was relieved to learn about the Trump administration's surprise national moratorium on evictions. (AP Photo/Dorthy Ray, File)

WASHINGTON – The American Bar Association urged Congress last week to extend a moratorium on the eviction of renters who’ve lost their jobs or been otherwise adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

A national moratorium on evictions was originally adopted as part of the CARES Act, a coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in the Spring, but its deadline elapsed two months ago.

Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enacted its own moratorium using authority granted to the federal government in a 1944 public health law. 

The new ban on evictions, which went into effect Sept. 1 and is set to expire Dec. 31 is intended to keep people out of homeless shelters or other crowded living conditions that could worsen the spread of COVID-19.

While the original moratorium only covered certain types of properties, the CDC moratorium protects nearly everyone living in one of the nation’s 43 million rental households.

A Congressional extension of the moratorium was part of the House Democrats’ $3.5 billion relief bill that passed in May, but no such provision is currently in the GOP plan the Senate is scheduled to vote on Thursday.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders of both parties, Lee Reto, president of the American Bar Association, said, a failure by Congress to act “will lead to a sharp spike in unemployment and homelessness, as well as extreme demands on community health and housing services during a time of year when such resources are in highest demand.”

Reto goes on to say the negative consequences that would come with the end of the moratorium would be felt by both landlords and tenants, and that ultimately it could lead to higher rents, a dramatic reduction in the nation’s already meager affordable housing supply, and the forced homelessness of millions of Americans.

“All of these crises, to renters, landlords, property owners, and to local communities – can be averted if Congress acts now to extend the evictions and foreclosure moratoriums until a time of greater economic stability and to provide rental and mortgage assistance to vulnerable families and property owners,” Reto wrote.

The text of the ABA letter can be read here.

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