Supreme Court Upholds the Extension of CDC’s Eviction Moratorium

Posted: Jun 30, 2021 1:45 PM
Supreme Court Upholds the Extension of CDC’s Eviction Moratorium

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File, Pool

In a 5-4 vote on Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court upheld the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) moratorium on tenant evictions, allowing the order to remain in effect until July 31.

The decision comes as a victory for President Joe Biden, who sought last week to extend the moratorium’s June 30 expiration by one month, according to a New York Times report. Biden hoped an extension would buy his administration valuable time to distribute the $21.5 billion authorized for emergency rental assistance payments by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Times reported.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced this extension last Thursday. In her announcement, Walensky said that she intended for it to be “the final extension of the moratorium.”

The case, Alabama Association of Realtors v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, was first brought in May by a group of realtors and real estate trade associations from Alabama and Georgia. They argued that the moratorium has left a $13 billion burden of unpaid rent each month for landlords nationwide, and that the relaxing of pandemic restrictions renders the CDC’s “public health” justification moot.

 “If Americans can safely gather together indoors without adhering to the most basic COVID-19 precautions, then there is no longer any public-health rationale for the moratorium,” the plaintiffs said.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich sided with the realtors, concluding that the CDC’s justification was not in line with the authority granted to the agency by the Public Health Service Act of 1944. However, Friedrich’s court put her ruling on pending appeal, paving the way for the realtors’ Supreme Court challenge.

Writing for the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh acknowledged that the CDC had exceeded its authority by extending the moratorium several times, but he said that the weeks until the July 31 deadline “will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds.”

Kavanaugh added that a further extension of the moratorium would require “clear and specific congressional authorization.”

In allowing the extension of the moratorium, Kavanaugh was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. Justices Samuel Alito Jr., Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas voted to allow the moratorium to expire on Wednesday.

Acting on guidance from then-President Donald Trump, the CDC issued the initial moratorium, which was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, last September. It has since been extended a total of four times to: Jan. 31, 2021, March 31, June 30, and now to July 31.

The extension of the moratorium ensures that no single person earning less than $99,000 nor joint-filing couple earning less than $198,000 annually will be evicted next month due to financial losses related to the pandemic.