The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an agency order Tuesday temporarily halting residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This order was made under Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act.
The moratorium on residential evictions is proposed to address the need for people to be able to self-isolate and socially distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with the agency placing great importance on housing stability as a tool to combat the public health crisis.
“To respond to this public health threat, the Federal, State, and local governments have taken unprecedented or exceedingly rare actions, including border closures, restrictions on travel, stay-at-home orders, mask requirements, and eviction moratoria. Despite these best efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread and further action is needed.”
The temporary moratorium created in this order is the baseline for all states and territories—except for American Samoa—in suspending landlord’s legal right to pursue eviction. States are not precluded from imposing additional requirements and protections should they want to; the CDC makes note that many states have gone further than the federal moratorium and have protected more people from eviction and the likelihood of spreading the virus.
The order covers people who have submitted a declaration to their landlord stating that: “they have attempted to obtain available government assistance; will make less than $99,000 in annual income; they are unable to pay rent due to substantial loss of income; they are making their best effort to make partial payments; and eviction would likely make them homeless.” This declaration and the order makes it clear that the moratorium prevents eviction solely on the basis of a loss of income due to COVID-19, but that those who are covered by the order are still required to pay rent and follow the terms of their lease and may still be evicted for other reasons that are not related to rent or housing payments.
This order in response to the pandemic highlights the “historic threat” of COVID-19, noting that “[a]ccording to one recent study, the mortality associated with COVID-19 during the early phase of the outbreak in New York City was comparable to the peak mortality observed during the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic.” The CDC through this order is seeking to proactively prevent the increased spread of COVID-19 which it predicts would take place if housing stability were not protected, as people would increasingly rely on shelters and government-assisted housing or may potentially become homeless without these protections, increasing the public health risks.