The Supreme Court late Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s latest moratorium on evictions, a decision that jeopardizes millions of U.S. families who rent.
The court’s decision was made with a 6-3 ruling, the three liberal justices dissenting. The majority opinion said the CDC exceeded its authority by issuing the two-month ban on evictions, which covered parts of the United States that are being hit hard by a surge in COVID-19 cases related to the delta variant. It said only Congress has the legal authority to issue a federal eviction moratorium.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement saying the administration was disappointed in the ruling, noting that it could mean families could lose their homes while the pandemic continues to rage. But the decision to block the extension likely did not surprise President Biden and his advisors, who had expressed doubt that the ban would hold up to legal scrutiny.
According to NPR, Thursday’s decision was all but inevitable, given an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court in June in which an earlier moratorium was allowed by a 5-4 margin.
At that time, Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with the majority but wrote that he did that because the moratorium was set to expire in just a few weeks on July 31.
Back then, Kavanaugh, who cast the fifth and deciding vote, also wrote that he voted not to end the eviction program, "because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution" of the funds that Congress appropriated to provide rental assistance to those in need due to the pandemic.
The distribution of the $50 billion in federal aid earmarked to help families pay back rent has been plagued by delays. The dispersal of that money has been so erratic, one analysis finds that 15 states haven’t even given out 5% of the federal aid to renters in need. The CDC’s moratorium on evictions has reportedly helped seven million Americans keep a roof over their heads during a pandemic that crippled many sectors of the U.S. economy.
In the June ruling, Kavanaugh said that Congress would need to pass new and more definitive legislation if the eviction moratorium was to go on past July. But lawmakers have not been able to get the necessary votes to do that. Given the vast impact of the latest ruling by the court, some think it’s time for Democrats to emphasize protecting the millions of people now facing the possibility of eviction.