The Supreme Court threw out the most recent moratorium on evictions Thursday despite rising cases of the Delta variant, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of being evicted from their homes.
In an eight-page opinion, the court wrote that in order for the eviction moratorium to continue, Congress would need to pass legislation to that effect.
Earlier this month, the previous eviction moratorium expired. In an effort to prevent the already rapid spread of the Delta variant, the Biden administration and the Center for Disease Control extended the moratorium until October 3. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that this was an overreach of federal power and therefore unconstitutional. Only Congress could authorize a moratorium on evictions, according to the court.
“Congress was on notice that a further extension would almost surely require new legislation, yet it failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration,” the majority wrote. “It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”
Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Elena Kagan dissented the majority opinion, arguing that the moratorium was needed to prevent transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant.
“COVID-19 transmission rates have spiked in recent weeks, reaching levels that the CDC puts as high as last winter: 150,000 new cases per day,” Breyer wrote. “The public interest strongly favors respecting the CDC’s judgment at this moment, when over 90% of counties are experiencing high transmission rates,” he continued.
According to the Washington Post, the number of Covid-19 patients hospitalized per day has exceeded 100,000 for three days in a row as of Thursday.
Although Congress appropriated billions of dollars for rental assistance, administrative delays have prevented that aid from being disbursed to tenants who have missed rent payments. $46.5 billion has been allocated in rental assistance for both tenants and landlords, but only $5.1 billion of those funds have been distributed due to backlogs.
“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,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
“Tonight, the Supreme Court failed to protect the 11 million households across the country from violent eviction in the middle of a deadly global pandemic,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), who led a protest earlier this month to extend the eviction moratorium’s deadline.
“We already know who is going to bear the brunt of this disastrous decision: Black and brown communities, and especially Black women.”
Sources: CNN 8/27/21; Supreme Court 8/26/21; Feminist Newswire 8/4/21; Washington Post 8/27/21; Washington Post 8/26/21; New York Times 8/27/21; Feminist Newswire 8/3/21