After pressure from renters and housing advocates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended the national eviction moratorium until June 30. The moratorium was set to expire on March 31 as outlined in President Trump’s $900B relief package passed last December.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement to CNBC. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
In the 17-page order, the CDC explained the specific risks of lifting the moratorium while the nation struggles to control the pandemic through continued social distancing and vaccine efforts, which have only reached 15 percent of the population.
“Two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccination became available in December 2020 and as of March 27, 2021, over 50 million people in the United States (more than 15 percent of the population) have been fully immunized,” the order read. “… Even as COVID- 19 vaccines continue to be distributed, it remains critical to maintain COVID-19 precautions to avoid further rises in transmission and to guard against yet another increase in the rates of new infections.”
“It is important to note that despite higher rates of vaccine coverage, the simultaneous roll-back of community mitigation efforts may continue to expose vulnerable populations, such as those targeted in this order, to higher-than-average COVID-19 rates,” it added.
Although the moratorium is a saving grace for millions of renters, it doesn’t offer automatic protection. As outlined in previous Inman articles, renters must meet an income cap ($98,000 for individuals, $198,000 for couples during 2020), prove they’ve sought out other rent assistance options, have tried to pay their rent to the best of their ability, and would be homeless in the event an eviction took place.
“The CDC moratorium has some holes in it,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Housing Policy Vice President Peggy Bailey told Inman in October. “Landlords can still move for an eviction if they come up with a reason other than loss of income due to the pandemic, and it’s on the resident to prove the landlord wrong.”
In addition to the loopholes, housing advocates say the moratorium doesn’t solve the issue of covering more than a year’s worth of back rent for renters. Although they can’t be evicted, renters are still on the hook for whatever rent they’ve missed during the pandemic.
“After the pandemic [and] after sudden rampant unemployment, the issue became exasperated, and we were still in the same scenario where there were very limited protections for tenants, so the CDC moratorium is a relief, but it actually just kicks the can down the line,” Dianne Enriquez, the director of campaigns for community dignity at the Center for Popular Democracy, told Inman in December. “If the federal government can give away $470 billion in tax breaks and subsidies, it seems fair to ask to have the federal government also find a mechanism to provide real rent relief for what’s owed.”
“They need to take the burden off of tenants who are doing their best to stay safe, to stay alive and negotiate transparently with their landlords, in good faith,” she added.
Congress has allocated $45 billion toward rental assistance; however, the timeline for dispersing those funds could be well into the summer. Although the first $25 billion of rental assistance has been rolled out, CNBC said, only 15 states have actually started placing those funds in the hands of renters. Furthermore, renters may run into limitations on how much of their rent can be covered.
“Many programs established under the Treasury’s $25 billion do not have funding caps,” National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel said. “Rather, tenants are restricted based on how many months of assistance they can receive.”
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan offers funding for up to 18 months worth of back rent, but some programs may limit renters to funding equal to 12 to 15 months of rent.
The moratorium process continues to be a work in progress for homeowners, too, as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also extended the national foreclosure ban and mortgage forbearance until June 30.
“This includes extending a foreclosure moratorium for homeowners through June 30 and extending a mortgage payment forbearance enrollment window until June 30 for borrowers who wish to request forbearance,” an Inman article explained. “The agencies will also provide up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance, in three-month increments, for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30, 2020.”