US SC ends federal eviction moratorium


Washington, Aug 27 : The US Supreme Court in a ruling blocked the Joe Biden administration's eviction moratorium meant to create a buffer for households struggling to pay their rent amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The six conservative justices on Thursday wrote in an unsigned opinion that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which imposed a renewed moratorium earlier this month that continued to temporarily protect those facing high risks of contracting Covid-19 who are meanwhile behind on their rent from being kicked out by their landlords, lacked the authority to do so under federal law without explicit congressional authorisation, reports Xinhua news agency. "It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken," they wrote. "But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorises 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." "If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorise it," said the majority opinion. The ruling was almost the same with the one the high court handed out in June, when it said in a 5-4 decision that a previous moratorium could stay until its expiration date of July 31. Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh at the time sided with the majority, but wrote in his opinion that the moratorium could not be extended further unless Congress so approved legislatively. Congress, however, failed to garner enough votes to extend the previous moratorium past July, resulting in its collapse. The CDC then issued a more limited moratorium on August 3 targeting counties "experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission" of Covid-19. It said their move was justified by the need to address the pandemic and authorised by the Public Health Service Act of 1944, but the moratorium was challenged by landlord groups shortly after its rollout, leading to several rounds of litigation that went all the way to the high court. The three liberal justices dissented from the highest federal court's latest ruling. "Applicants raise contested legal questions about an important federal statute on which the lower courts are split and on which this court has never actually spoken," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent. "These questions call for considered decision-making, informed by full briefing and argument. Their answers impact the health of millions. We should not set aside the CDC's eviction moratorium in this summary proceeding." The latest decision came as the Census Bureau's most recent data showed more than 7 million people in the US were behind on their rent. Meanwhile, data from the Department of the Treasury showed as of July, only 10 per cent of the $46.6 million aid to tenants and landlords that Congress has appropriated since December 2020 has been distributed. The Biden administration, which in a filing on Monday urged the Supreme Court not to block the moratorium at a time when the highly transmissible Delta variant propelled a new surge of cases, said it was "disappointed" by the ruling. "The Biden administration is disappointed that the Supreme Court has blocked the most recent CDC eviction moratorium while confirmed cases of the Delta variant are significant across the country," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday night. "As a result of this ruling, families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to Covid-19." /IANS


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