No one should have been surprised when the U.S. Supreme Court last week ruled against the Biden administration in its attempt to implement a moratorium on evictions.
In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by Congress last year, a provision placed a moratorium on certain evictions until July 24, 2020. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been extending a moratorium — presumably under its own authority.
The Supreme Court finally said “Enough is enough.” The CDC lacks the authority to take such action, the court ruled Aug. 26.
“The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions of any tenants who live in a county that is experiencing substantial or high levels of COVID–19 transmission and who make certain declarations of financial need,” the Supreme Court ruled. “It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts.”
One problem with the CDC’s moratorium is that it covered “all residential properties nationwide and imposed criminal penalties on violators,” the court ruled. This was not in included in the relevant provision of the CARES Act — meaning that the CDC had, in essence, created a new law.
The Supreme Court’s ruling prompted Gov. Kathy Hochul this week to call members of the state Legislature back to Albany for an extraordinary session, a special legislative proceeding with a brief agenda. The state’s eviction moratorium expired Tuesday, so she asked lawmakers to extend it.
Members of the state Assembly and Senate complied Wednesday, and this was wrong. Some of the reasons cited for maintaining a moratorium are easily refuted by several factors.
There is a fear that people who are evicted would be more vulnerable to becoming infected with the novel coronavirus. The solution for this is to have these individuals be fully vaccinated. This provides the best protection from COVID-19 they could receive.
In addition, New York needs to do a much better job at distributing federal funds earmarked for landlords and tenants struggling with their finances due to the coronavirus pandemic. This will go a long way toward stabilizing people’s household budgets.
Finally, tenants worried about how to pay their rent should obtain one of the numerous jobs available throughout the state. “Help Wanted” signs have been put up everywhere, so follow one and fill out an application.
Employers have been desperate to recruit enough workers to keep their companies operating efficiently. Many businesses have had to close because they can’t entice a sufficient number of staff members.
Continually extending a moratorium on evictions is reckless. Property owners have been losing revenue for more than a year, but they still have their own bills to pay with this income. Some of them can’t get rid of problematic tenants, and others have been stuck with overwhelming debt.
We can’t put a hold on all financial transactions indefinitely. At some point, we all have to return to the practice of fulfilling the obligations we have toward others.
We share the concerns about exacerbating homelessness and putting people at risk of spreading the virus. But there are alternatives to maintaining a moratorium on evictions, and state legislators should exhaust these options first.