The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended a federal moratorium on evictions through the end of June, just days before the current extension expires as millions of Americans struggle to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 10 million Americans are behind on rent or mortgage payments, and more than 5 million people believe they are at risk of eviction or foreclosure, according to the US Census Bureau.
Roughly 8.4 million have reported that their households are not caught up with rent, according to the Census Bureau survey from 3 March through 15 March.
Earlier this month, more than 2,200 civil rights, housing and health organisations urged Joe Biden’s administration to extend the current ban to prevent a “catastrophic wave of evictions” in the weeks ahead.
The measure applies to individual renters making $99,000 or less and couples earning less than $198,000 or living in “congregate housing” who must declare that they are unable to pay for housing because of Covid-19-related hardships and risk homelessness if evicted.
“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,” CDC director Dr Rochelle Walenskysaid in a statement on Monday.
The moratorium has been extended several times as the nation endures the ongoing economic fallout from the public health crisis. The CDC put the initial order in place from 4 September through the end of December.
On 29 January, the president extended the previous CDC eviction moratorium through the end of March.
The moratorium “does not relieve any individual of any obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligation that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract,” according to the CDC.
A $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan relief package signed into law this month by Mr Biden provides $21.5 billion through the Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
Progressive lawmakers in Congress have revived legislation to cancel rent and mortgage payments nationwide, constituting “a full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners and no negative impact on their credit rating or rental history,” according to a statement from US Rep Ilhan Omar’s office.
“Right now, we are facing an unprecedented crisis that has put millions of Americans at risk of housing instability and homelessness,” the Minnesota congresswoman said in a statement this month.
“While the American Rescue Plan extends the national rent moratorium, this is not a long-term solution,” she said. “People across this country will be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in back rent when it ends. … To avoid an even larger crisis, we must cancel rent and mortgage payments during this pandemic. This isn’t a radical idea. It’s what is needed to prevent an even bigger crisis.”
The number of people experiencing homelessness across the US has grown for the fourth year in a row, according to a snapshot of the nation’s crisis from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
On a single night in January 2020, two months before the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic, roughly 580,000 people – or about 18 of every 10,000 people in the US – were experiencing homelessness, a more than 2 per cent increase from 2019.
“What makes these findings even more devastating is that they are based on data even before Covid-19, and we know the pandemic has only made the homelessness crisis worse,” HUD secretary Marcia Fudge said in a video statement with the report on 18 March.