The Trump administration said it would use its quarantine agency to keep renters in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic to prevent an eviction crisis that could exacerbate economic pressures.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to temporarily halt evictions to consumers who earn no more than $ 99,000 a year to help prevent the virus from spreading, a senior administration official said Tuesday. The policy takes effect immediately.
The administration acts unilaterally after failing to reach an agreement with lawmakers on another round of stimulus relief funding, which is partly aimed at keeping tenants in their homes.
To get the relief, renters have to claim that they will be unable to pay their rent or that they will likely become homeless if thrown out of their property, the administration official said.
People who received a coronavirus stimulus check earlier this year are also eligible for protection, as are couples who file their taxes together and earn less than $ 198,000.
The move is an unprecedented use of executive power and can face legal challenges from landlords who have lost rental income during the crisis. However, administrative officials believe that federal law enables them to order immediate action if they discover that state and local governments have not taken enough steps to prevent the spread of a communicable disease.
A White House attorney, who asked not to be identified to discuss the measure, said the CDC director has the authority to take steps he deems appropriate to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
"President Trump is committed to helping hardworking Americans stay in their homes and fight the spread of the coronavirus," White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern said in a statement. "His government's announcement today means people who are struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus will not have to worry about evictions and run the risk of further spread or exposure to the disease due to economic hardship."
Officials said the administration provided stimulus funds to offset the impact of the arrangement on landlords and property owners. About one in five American tenants – between 19 and 23 million people – is at risk of eviction by the end of September, according to an analysis by the Aspen Institute.
"This unprecedented action is further proof that President Trump is doing everything in his power to protect the American people in their homes," Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development, said in a statement.
Those who apply for eviction will continue to pay as much rent as they can afford. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier Tuesday that the measures taken by the administration could affect "nearly" 40 million renters.
President Trump's efforts to suspend evictions under the CDC regulation follow executive orders he signed in early August after negotiators were unable to reach an agreement on another round of stimulus finance. Trump's other executive orders were supposed to allow some workers to temporarily defer payroll taxes, increase state unemployment benefits and freeze federal student loans.
Democrats have noted the government is struggling to implement the unilateral tax and unemployment benefits and have urged the White House to step up spending on the next round of funding. The Democratic-controlled House passed a bill in May that included $ 100 billion in rental support, but the White House and Senate Republicans said the package – priced at over $ 3 trillion – was too expensive.
Mnuchin said he plans to speak to House Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi about continuing those talks later Tuesday.