WASHINGTON – A federal judge imposed a national moratorium on evictions that was enacted last year to help Americans lagged behind during the coronavirus pandemic.
District of Columbia District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ruled Wednesday that the federal government had gone too far in passing the ban.
“The court recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic represents a major public health crisis that has posed unprecedented challenges for public health officials and the entire nation,” Friedrich wrote in a 20-page decision. “The pandemic has sparked difficult political decisions that have had huge real consequences. The nationwide eviction moratorium is one such decision. “
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have the power to impose a national moratorium under the Public Health Act, Friedrich said.
The Justice Department “respectfully disagrees” with the ruling and has appealed, Brian Boynton, assistant attorney general for the department’s civil division, said in a statement.
“The CDC’s eviction moratorium … protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments because of job loss or health care expenses. Research shows evictions are exacerbating the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than half a million Americans Damage to the public that would result from unchecked evictions is irreversible, “said Boynton.
The Justice Department has also asked the judge to prevent the ruling from going into effect until the appeal process is complete. In a motion filed late Wednesday, the agency argued that deferring the verdict would prevent the eviction, which could lead to the spread of COVID-19.
In the White House, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Biden government is reviewing the verdict.
“We, of course, recognize the importance of the eviction moratorium on Americans who have done this Relapsed to rent during the pandemic,” She said.
Congress passed a 120-day eviction moratorium last spring as part of the CARES bill, which gave relief to American families and workers struggling financially due to COVID. After the moratorium expired, the US Department of Health, through the CDC, issued a more comprehensive eviction moratorium that applied to all rental properties across the country.
In March, President Joe Biden extended the moratorium despite objections from landlords, real estate agents and others who claimed it was causing financial hardship and violating their property rights. The Alabama Association of Realtors sued to stop the eviction ban.
The current moratorium expires on June 30th.
With Friedrich’s decision, “there are now numerous conflicting court rulings at the district court level, in which several judges ruled in favor of the moratorium and several against,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
The Biden government “should appeal immediately” and “continue to vigorously defend and enforce the moratorium, at least until the emergency rent assistance provided by Congress reaches the tenants who need it to stay stable,” she tweeted.
Contributor: Kristine Phillips
Michael Collins reports on the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.