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Supreme Court Ruling Coming Soon On Federal Eviction Moratorium

August 26, 2021 by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is expected to rule within days on a lawsuit by associations of realtors that seek to overturn the federal extension of the eviction moratorium until Oct. 3.

In a hearing on Monday, the realtors argued the moratorium violates their contractual rights and deprives them of property without due process of law.

Justice Department attorneys argue the worsening this summer of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a public health emergency that added urgency to the moratorium.

In a ruling in June, the Supreme Court said the moratorium declared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not be extended beyond July 31 without violating the constitutional rights of landlords.

Nevertheless, as the July 31 deadline came and went, the CDC extended the moratorium to Oct. 3 with support from President Joe Biden.

A Justice Department filing says the delta variant of COVID-19 made the pandemic change “unexpectedly, dramatically and for the worse.”

“New evidence suggests that the delta variant is more than twice as transmissible as the original strains of SARS-CoV-2; that even vaccinated individuals who become infected with the delta variant may transmit the virus to others; and that the delta variant may increase the risk of breakthrough infections among vaccinated persons,” a Justice Department brief in the latest Supreme Court case says.

The CDC announced its nationwide eviction moratorium in September 2020. It was intended to protect vulnerable tenants likely to face homelessness or close-quartered living if they were evicted.

The CDC also set an expiration date for it of July 31.

A group of realtors sued to block the moratorium last November. They won initially in U.S. District Court but the ruling was put on hold until it reached the Supreme Court.

In June, the Supreme Court decided to keep the moratorium through its July 31 expiration date.

The CDC’s extension to Oct. 3 brought the realtors back to the Supreme Court this week for their emergency application.

The realtors argued that the Biden administration was playing “gamesmanship” to achieve economic goals at the expense of landlords.

“In light of the Executive Branch’s statement that its litigation efforts are designed to buy time to achieve its economic policy goals—and the fact that landlords are now subject to federal criminal penalties for exercising their property rights depending on where they do business—applicants respectfully ask this Court to issue relief as soon as possible,” their Supreme Court brief says.

The Justice Department argued in a filing that the realtors, led by the National Association of Realtors, “failed to carry their heavy burden to justify” lifting the moratorium.

“The CDC has the statutory authority to halt evictions to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” the Justice Department attorneys wrote. “Congress has confirmed and relied on that understanding.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is redoubling its efforts to help tenants even if the Supreme Court rules for the landlords.

The Treasury Department is offering $45 billion in rental assistance to renters who qualify.

However, the payments have been delayed by the paperwork that requires proof of financial hardship.

An estimated 11.4 million American adults are behind on their rent, according to a recent analysis by the nonprofit policy research organization Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Treasury Department has been requiring documentation of financial hardship as protection against fraud in rental assistance applications.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced a policy change to speed up rental assistance. Applicants will get more options to verify their hardship without further documentation.

A White House fact sheet said the Department of Treasury is “providing even more explicit permission for grantees to utilize self-attestation without further documentation in order to speed the delivery of assistance to households in need during the public health emergency.”

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