On Monday, in a court filing, attorneys for the US Department of Justice said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acted within their legal authority earlier this month by renewing a federal moratorium on deportation of people in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Groups representing homeowners have sought to lift the moratorium, noting that even officials in the Biden administration have conceded it may not be legal.
The CDC first issued a moratorium on evictions in September 2020, with agency officials saying the policy was needed to tackle the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic.
Groups of realtors in Alabama and Georgia were among those challenging the moratorium.
About 3.5 million people in the United States are at risk of deportation over the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
The CDC’s ban expired in late July but was renewed until October 3 by the Biden administration after an outcry among Democratic lawmakers.
Biden initially said congressional action was needed to renew the moratorium, but his administration turned the tide and issued a narrower rule that applied to places with the highest COVID-19 transmission rates.
The owners say they have suffered financially due to various state, local and federal moratoria in place since last year.
“Without rent, we are bankrupt,” said Gary Zaremba, owner of a building in New York.
The current moratorium, which is due to expire in October, covers nearly 92% of U.S. counties, but that could change depending on COVID-19 conditions.
The U.S. government, meanwhile, is providing $ 46.5 billion in financial assistance to localities for distribution to homeowners and tenants who have been unable to pay their bills during the pandemic.
On August 20, a federal appeals court said the CDC’s break on evictions could stay in place for now, setting up a battle before the country’s highest court.
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected an offer by owners in Alabama and Georgia to block the moratorium on evictions reinstated by the CDC earlier this month .
The owners filed an emergency motion hours later with the Supreme Court, urging judges to allow the evictions.
“As five members of this tribunal indicated less than two months ago, Congress has never given the CDC the staggering power it claims,” lawyers for the owners said in a filing.
Earlier this month, a lower court judge agreed the freeze was illegal, but rejected the owners’ request to lift the moratorium, saying his hands were tied by an appeal decision from the last time. that the courts have reviewed the moratorium on evictions.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that the rise of the Delta variant made the continued moratorium “vitally important” and she welcomed the appeals court ruling. .