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How The New Eviction Ban Affects Millions Of Renters And Landlords

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

For many Americans, COVID-19 has upended their lives. They've lost their jobs and with it the ability to pay rent. This week, the Centers for Disease Control announced a new moratorium on evictions a few days after the previous ban had expired. Now, what does the new ban mean for the millions of renters facing eviction and the landlords awaiting money? NPR's Laurel Wamsley reports.

LAUREL WAMSLEY, BYLINE: President Biden says he's not certain whether the new CDC order will survive potential legal challenges, but he's hoping it will buy people on the brink of eviction some breathing room.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: By the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time while we're getting that $45 billion out to people who are, in fact, behind in the rent and don't have the money.

WAMSLEY: Those billions he's talking about is the federal housing aid to states. But that aid has been moving at a trickle to renters and landlords. The CDC's new 60-day order is a little different from the old one that started last year. It only applies to counties with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19, but that includes most of the country right now. The previous ban expired after the Supreme Court signaled it wouldn't accept any further extensions without congressional authorization. Cashauna Hill is executive director of Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center.

CASHAUNA HILL: People are worried. They're terrified. We've got a huge population of folks who are having difficulty staying afloat during this once-in-a-century global pandemic.

WAMSLEY: And she says evictions can happen fast - officially through the courts and informally when tenants just move out after receiving an eviction notice. The White House has urged state and local governments to get the emergency funds out quickly to renters and their landlords.

HILL: What we are seeing, though, are state and local governments that are placing very high obstacles to access the money in front of the tenants who need these resources. They are being asked to complete very long and burdensome applications in many cases.

WAMSLEY: Louisiana has received $550 million to help tenants and landlords, according to The Associated Press, but the governor says the state has so far approved just $61 million. That's about 11%. Part of the problem is that state and local governments were required to set up their own programs to disperse the funds, and many states are overwhelmed and understaffed.

Greg Brown is with the National Apartment Association, which represents owners and operators of rental housing - landlords. Last week, the association sued the federal government over the previous eviction ban. Brown says the debt just keeps mounting beyond what's appropriated while these bans continue.

GREG BROWN: The math is not in our favor in terms of the amount of rental assistance that's been allocated versus the amount of rental debt that is outstanding. And, you know, if we don't make housing providers whole, the future of housing in this country - rental housing in this country becomes even further jeopardized.

WAMSLEY: Steve Vladeck is a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin who's an expert on federal courts. He suspects the scope of the CDC's authority is likely to be at the center of any legal challenges against the new ban.

STEVE VLADECK: I think that the Justice Department will have some pretty good arguments that this one is much more tailored to CDC's express statutory authority to take measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

WAMSLEY: On the other hand, he says, the court's conservative justices could decide that the CDC has pushed its authority too far. Either way, millions of renters are hoping that the aid they desperately need arrives before an eviction notice does.

Laurel Wamsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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