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DOJ to Appeal Federal Judge Ruling on CDC Eviction Moratorium

May 6, 2021 by Reece Nations
Banners against renters eviction reading no job, no rent is displayed on a controlled rent building in Washington, DC on August 9, 2020. (ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — After a federal judge ruled on Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on evictions exceeded the agency’s authority, the Department of Justice announced it would appeal the decision.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich authored the 20-page opinion accompanying the ruling. The moratorium was instituted by the CDC in September 2020 pursuant to the Public Health Service Act and was originally scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2020, but was extended past its deadline.

In the court’s opinion, Friedrich wrote that the language of the Public Health Service Act does not grant the CDC legal authority to impose a moratorium on all residential properties nationwide.

“Because the language of the Public Health Service Act … unambiguously forecloses the nationwide eviction moratorium, the court must set aside the CDC order,” Friedrich wrote in the opinion.

Friedrich contended that even during a global pandemic, “(it) is the role of political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease,” according to the text of the memorandum.

The CDC sought to extend the moratorium through June 30 at the direction of President Joe Biden. Similarly, Biden in February extended the federal moratorium on foreclosures through June 30, TWN previously reported.

Eligibility for the housing protection requires couples filing jointly to earn no more than $198,000 annually, or $99,000 for single filers, according to the Associated Press. Further, the renters must certify they have sought government assistance to pay rent, declare that they are unable to pay rent because of COVID-19 hardships, and affirm they will become homeless if evicted.

In March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced an extension of the state’s eviction moratorium, citing the pandemic’s economic toll on tenants. 

“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 Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Brian Boynton said in a written 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.”

Boynton continued, “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.”

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