Tenants at the Woodner Apartments in northwest D.C. protest evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy photo via Facebook)
Tenants at the Woodner Apartments in northwest D.C. protest evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy photo via Facebook)

Landlords can resume eviction proceedings after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued clarifications to a previous executive order from President Donald Trump.

The CDC’s memo released this week noted that its order “isn’t intended to prevent landlords from starting eviction proceedings, provided that the actual eviction of a covered person for non-payment of rent does NOT take place during the period of the Order.”

The order temporarily halts residential evictions of covered persons for nonpayment of rent from Sept. 4 through Dec. 31, 2020.

This means that a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue an eviction or a possessory action cannot evict for nonpayment of rent any covered person from any residential property in any U.S. state or U.S. territory where the Order applies.

Further, the memo states that “landlords are not required to make their tenants aware of” Trump’s eviction moratorium and the CDC’s declaration form that renters must fill out to qualify.

Following the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, Trump issued an executive order that forced the CDC to halt evictions through the end of the year.

Diana Yentel, the nonprofit National Low-Income Housing Coalition president, suggested that Trump’s executive order should have accompanied legislation and substantial emergency assistance.

Yentel declared that monetary aid was necessary because of a “wave of homelessness” facing the country.

The CDC issued its order because it determined that evictions threaten to increase the spread of COVID-19. During a pandemic, calling a temporary halt to evictions can be an effective public health measure to prevent the spread of disease, CDC officials stated.

A temporary halt of evictions can help people who become sick or who remain at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 protect themselves and others by staying quarantined in one place. The orders also allow state and local authorities to more easily implement stay-at-home and social distancing measures to lessen the community spread of COVID-19.

Further, the CDC noted that housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood that people may move into close quarters in homeless shelters or other settings. These crowded places put people at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. People who remain homeless and not in a shelter have an increased risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.

Many experts said the federal government should follow initiatives instituted by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Council of the District of Columbia.

In September, the Council voted unanimously to approve an extension to Bowser’s state of emergency order which prohibits evictions and ties them to the health emergency.

The Council’s action allows Bowser to extend the city’s moratorium on evictions as long as she deems necessary. The District’s law also bans new eviction filings – a move that will last for an additional two months following the end of the pandemic.

Further, notices to vacate remain legally unenforceable during the eviction ban.

“When . . . my email box is flooded with resident outrage, we want to act quickly, and I agree,” D.C. At-large Council member Elissa Silverman told reporters. “But we also need to act thoroughly. The entire eviction process needs to be, I think, examined, and all of these recommendations made in the story deserve our consideration.”

A study conducted by Harvard University’s Department of Housing Studies revealed that half of Americans who rent are either severely rent-burdened or moderately rent-burdened.

For African Americans and Hispanics, researchers at Harvard determined a triple pandemic for those communities.

Black and Hispanic households were “much more likely to contract COVID-19, suffer lost income, and face housing insecurity as a result of the pandemic,” the researchers concluded.

“It’s a good time for the United States to really re-look at our housing policies,” Yentel told Yahoo! News, “and see what changes need to be made post-pandemic or even during the pandemic to help those who were already struggling.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that about 30 percent of American adults face some form of eviction or foreclosure by December.

To help protect against eviction, tenants must show that their 2020 income is less than 2019, and they have to prove that the coronavirus caused them to lose employment or the ability to earn money.

The CDC memo did provide a steadier position for homeowners with Federal Housing Administration-insured loans through the end of 2020.

The memo prohibits banks from foreclosing on homes until January 2021 at the earliest.

The CDC memo also reinforced cries for a new federal stimulus on which the Trump administration and Democrats have remained at odds.

“If Trump walks away from passing a stimulus, we are staring down the barrel of one of the largest mass evictions in American history,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a Twitter post.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders also tweeted his concern, writing, “the tsunami of evictions we are about to see is unacceptable.”

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union also called for a stimulus agreement to assist financially ailing Americans.

“Every day, people in our country are suffering through unemployment and evictions. People are dying in prisons and jails and from lack of access to testing and treatment. This is all happening while the clock ticks down to Election Day. People need relief now,” the organization stated.

Stacey Brown photo

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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