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What to know about the Trump administration's temporary eviction halt and who's covered

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BackyardProduction/iStockBY: KARMA ALLEN, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration announced Tuesday evening a federal, temporary halt on evictions in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 “due to economic hardship,” an official said.

The new federal eviction moratorium comes down through an order from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump administration officials said, at a time when many state and local eviction protections have since expired.

The moratorium “means that people struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus will not have to worry about being evicted and risk further spreading — spreading of or exposure to the disease due to economic hardship,” Brian Morgenstern, the deputy White House Press Secretary, said in call with reporters Tuesday.

The new federal efforts come as experts warn of a potential onslaught of new evictions as the COVID-19 crisis continues to sow new anguish in the economy and labor market.

In an analysis released last month, researchers at the nonprofit think tank Aspen Institute estimated that 30 to 40 million people in the U.S. could be at risk of eviction over the next several months.

Who is covered and how does it work?

The new eviction moratorium protects any tenant or resident of a residential property in the U.S. who meets five factors and provides their landlord with a declaration indicating such, according to a draft of the order published in the Federal Register. The final order is scheduled to be published Sept. 4.

The deceleration form will be available on the CDC’s website. The order is set to last through the end of the year, expiring on Dec. 31, 2020.

First, the tenant must indicate in the declaration that they have used all their best efforts to obtain available government assistance for rent or housing.

Second, the renter must earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for 2020, or no more than $198,000 if filing taxes jointly. Otherwise, the renter must have either received an Economic Impact Payment stimulus check through the CARES Act, or not been required to report any income in 2019.

Third, they must declare that they are unable to pay their full rent due to COVID-19 hardships such as a substantial loss of household income, either due to a layoff, reduced work or “extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.”

Fourth, the individual must show they are “using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit,” according to the order.

Lastly, the declaration must show that eviction would likely render the individual homeless or force them to move and live in close quarters with others in a new shared living setting.

The order does not apply if any state or local area has a moratorium on residential evictions “that provides the same or greater level of public-health protections than the requirements” listed in the order. It also doesn’t apply to American Samoa, which has reported no COVID-19 cases.

Moreover, the order does not relieve anyone of the obligation to pay rent or preclude the charging or collecting of fees, penalties or interest as a result of not being able to pay rent on time.

Finally, the order does not apply to evictions based on criminal activity on the premises, threatening the health or safety of other residents, damaging or posing a significant risk of damage to property, violating any building codes or health ordinances, or violating any other contractual obligation other than the timely payment of rent.

Ultimately, enforcement of the CDC order will be left to the normal eviction and local court processes, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, welcomed the national eviction moratorium as “long overdue and badly needed,” but warned that it will likely only put off the evictions rather than prevent them.

“As we have said for five months, the very least the federal government ought to do is assure each of us that we won’t lose our homes in the middle of a global pandemic: the administration’s action would do so and will provide relief from the growing threat of eviction for millions of anxious families,” Yentel said in a statement. “But while an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed.”

She said the action “delays but does not prevent evictions” and called on lawmakers to pass a relief bill with emergency rental assistance in order to keep renters stably housed and allow small landlords to pay their bills during the pandemic.

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