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US Supreme Court ends pandemic eviction ban

August 27, 2021

A temporary ban on evictions had protected millions of renters in the US. But the court said health authorities did not have the power to impose such a moratorium.

Protesters in Brooklyn hold signs that read, "Cancel rent!" and "Stop eviction"
Protesters in the US had repeatedly called for a ban on evictions amid the COVID pandemicImage: NDZ/STAR MAX/IPx/picture alliance

The US Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the extension of a federal moratorium on evictions by President Joe Biden's administration.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had enforced the temporary ban on residential eviction, citing public health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC's latest two-month-long moratorium, rolled out on August 3 after the expiry of a prior one, had prompted the case.

Thursday's decision by the conservative-majority court ended protections for an estimated 3.5 million people who told the US Census Bureau they faced eviction in the next two months.

Coronavirus and homelessness

'It is up to Congress'

The court argued that the CDC had exceeded its federal authority when it ordered halting residential evictions in areas where coronavirus cases were surging.

"It is up to Congress, not the CDC, to decide whether the public interest merits further action here," read the eight-page court's majority opinion.

Six judges voted against extending the moratorium in the nine-judge body. The three liberal justices dissented and reiterated concerns that evictions could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus delta variant. 

In June, the court had left a prior ban in place. However, at the time, it signaled that it thought the moratorium was on shaky legal ground, and that such a policy could not be imposed unilaterally by the executive branch.

USA: Rising homelessness

Biden calls for 'urgent' action

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the administration "is disappointed" that the court blocked the eviction moratorium "while confirmed cases of the delta variant are significant across the country."

The moratorium "saved lives by preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout the pandemic," Psaki said in a statement.

In light of the ruling "and the continued risk of COVID-19 transmission, President Biden is once again calling on all entities that can prevent evictions... to urgently act to prevent evictions," Psaki said.

According to the CDC, coronavirus infections have been on the rise, with the 7-day average of daily new cases at 142,006 — which is 2.8% higher than the week before. 

Help for those affected has been slow

Although challenging the moratorium was expected, the White House had hoped the extension would give time for emergency rental assistance funds approved by Congress to reach those in need.

But on Wednesday, the Treasury Department said only about 11% of the money has been distributed by state and local governments. 

fb/dj (AFP, AP, Reuters)