116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a revised eviction moratorium Tuesday evening that applies to most — but not all — of the nation and lasts until Oct. 3 as the Biden administration sought to quell criticism from progressives that it was allowing vulnerable renters to lose their homes during a pandemic.
The new ban could help keep millions in their homes as the Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading quickly, yet many state have been slow to release federal rental aid.
It would temporarily halt evictions in counties with "substantial and high levels" of virus transmissions. While that covers about an estimated 90 percent of the nation, it does not apply — at least for now — evenly to all of Eastern Iowa, according to criteria from the CDC.
While Linn County was rated Tuesday by the CDC as having a high transmission rate that would qualify it for the ban, Johnson County was coded as having a moderate risk — too low for the ban’s new criteria. However, the criteria is based on the average number of new cases per capita in a seven-day period, and is subject to change. The new ban deals with changes in transmission rates by this method:
“If a U.S. county that is not covered by this Order as of August 3, 2021 later experiences substantial or high levels of community transmission while this Order is in effect, then that county will become subject to this Order as of the date the county begins experiencing substantial or high levels of community transmission,” the new ban reads.
Conversely, “If a U.S. county that is covered by this Order no longer experiences substantial or high levels of community transmission for 14 consecutive days, then this Order will no longer apply in that county, unless and until the county again experiences substantial or high levels of community transmission while this Order is in effect.”
The announcement was a reversal for the Biden administration, which allowed an earlier moratorium to lapse over the weekend after saying a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prevented an extension by the administration. That ripped open a dramatic split between the White House and progressive Democrats who insisted the administration do more to prevent some 3.6 million Americans from losing their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking Tuesday at the White House, Biden said he pushed the CDC to again consider its options. But he still seemed hesitant as to whether the new moratorium could withstand lawsuits about its constitutionality, saying he has sought the opinions of legal experts.
"The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it's not likely to pass constitutional muster," Biden said. "But there are several key scholars who think that it may, and it's worth the effort."
The president added that the moratorium — even if it gets challenged in court — "will probably give some additional time" for states and cities to release billions of dollars in federal relief to renters to pay their landlords.
Iowa runs a rental aid program through the Iowa Finance Authority, though like many other states it has provided renters with only a small share of the tens of millions if got for that purpose from the federal government. While Cedar Rapids has its own rental aid program, it is collaborating with Linn County as the county launches a program later in August to supplant the state program for local residents.
Politically, the extension could help heal a rift with liberal Democratic lawmakers who were calling on the president to take executive action to keep renters in their homes.
Top Democratic leaders joined Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who has been camped outside the U.S. Capitol for several days. The freshman congresswoman once lived in her car as a young mother and pointed to that experience to urge the White House to prevent widespread evictions.
As she wiped her eyes before a crowd at the Capitol after the CDC's announcement, Bush said she was shedding "joyful tears."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was a day of "extraordinary relief."
Administration officials had previously said a Supreme Court ruling stopped them from setting up a new moratorium without congressional backing. When the court allowed the eviction ban to remain in place through the end of July by a 5-4 vote, one justice in the majority, Brett Kavanaugh, wrote that Congress would have to act to extend it further.
But Tuesday, the CDC cited the slow pace of governments disbursing housing aid as justification for a new moratorium. "The money is there," Biden said.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen briefed House Democrats Tuesday about the work underway to ensure the federal housing aid makes it to renters and landlords. She provided data so that lawmakers could see how their districts and states are performing with distributing the relief.