A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national eviction moratorium aimed at helping victims of the pandemic hold onto their homes exceeds the agency’s authority and should be vacated.
“The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not,” Judge Dabney Friedrich, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, wrote in a 20-page ruling finding that the moratorium — which was scheduled to remain in place until June 30 — should be vacated.
The judge noted that while Congress had ratified earlier extensions of the moratorium order, it had not done so for the latest extension.
It’s unclear what the immediate impact of the ruling will be. The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to an email for comment.
The ruling is one of several conflicting decisions on the issue, which Friedrich noted in her decision. “In the last several months, at least six courts have considered various statutory and constitutional challenges to the CDC order,” she wrote.
In one of those cases, a federal judge in Texas ruled the eviction moratorium was unconstitutional. The government has appealed that decision.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during her daily news briefing that DOJ “is reviewing” the latest decision and would have more to say later in the day.
“We also recognize of course the importance of the eviction moratorium for Americans who have fallen behind on rent during the pandemic. A recent study estimates that there were 1.5 million fewer evictions filed during 2020 than would be expected due to the eviction moratorium so it clearly has had a huge benefit,” Psaki said.
Numerous landlords have criticized the policy and challenged it in court, arguing it’s made it impossible for them to make ends meet.
The moratorium was first enacted as part of the first coronavirus stimulus bill, the Cares Act, signed by then-President Donald Trump last March. It expired in July and was followed by the order from the CDC in September. That order was initially set to expire at the end of January but has since been extended through by President Joe Biden’s CDC director, Rochelle P. Walensky.
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