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Painful Impact: Supreme Court Blocks Moratorium on Evictions

Moratorium on Evictions
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EDITOR NOTE: The Supreme Court ruled that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) doesn’t have the authority to cancel rent or stop landlords from evicting tenants who don’t pay and the moratorium on evictions is coming to an end. This defeat is the latest blow to the Biden administration that has now lost multiple Supreme Court battles trying to overturn Trump-era policies. Over 3.5 million Americans will face eviction in the coming weeks and months and, if recent history is any indication, the current administration will try to spend its way out of this mess. Biden has already spent $25 billion to help renters who haven’t paid, and now, with no legal avenues left, there could be more. Whether government handouts help or millions end up on the street, the fact is, neither option is good for the U.S. economy.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s eviction moratorium, allowing property owners to begin the process of evicting millions of Americans who are behind on rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over a dissent from the court's three liberal justices, the court ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not have authority to impose the freeze.

"It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken," the court's majority wrote in an unsigned opinion. "But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts."

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer asserted that the court should not have set aside the moratorium on an expedited basis.

"Applicants raise contested legal questions about an important federal statute on which the lower courts are split and on which this court has never actually spoken," Breyer wrote. "These questions call for considered decision making, informed by full briefing and argument. Their answers impact the health of millions."

More:'An epidemic in itself': Why billions of federal aid isn't making it to renters, landlords during pandemic

In addition to raising questions about the CDC's authority to impose the moratorium, real estate groups in Georgia and Alabama told the high court that the freeze caused significant financial hardship – requiring property owners to pay expenses while not receiving income from some of their renters.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was "disappointed that the Supreme Court has blocked the most recent CDC eviction moratorium while confirmed cases of the delta variant are significant across the country." As a result, she said, "families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19."

The court's ruling dealt only with whether the moratorium would continue on a temporary basis while lower courts consider the underlying challenge, but it is nevertheless pivotal. The CDC's moratorium had been set to expire in early October and a legal fight over its merits would almost certainly take months, if not years.

But the court, which has to weigh the likelihood of a plaintiff's ultimate success when deciding a temporary order, indicated that the administration faces an uphill climb.

"The applicants not only have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits – it is difficult to imagine them losing," the majority wrote.

The ruling won't likely lead to renters immediately being removed, but it will allow property owners to begin eviction proceedings in cases where they couldn't before.

The decision marked the second time this week that the Supreme Court's conservative majority shot down a Biden initiative. On Tuesday the court required the administration to reinstate an immigration policy requiring migrants to wait in Mexico while U.S. officials process their asylum claims. Biden had sought to unwind that Trump-era policy.

Congress approved the original eviction moratorium in the early months of the pandemic. When it expired in July 2020, President Donald Trump ordered the CDC to impose its own freeze, which it did in September. Biden extended that order through last month, prompting a lengthy political and legal battle over its impact.

A 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court in June allowed the eviction freeze to remain in place for a month, but Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh indicated that he would switch his vote if the administration attempted to extend the freeze beyond the end of July.

Originally posted on USA Today 

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