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The Trump administration is moving to prevent tens of millions of Americans who rent an apartment or home from being evicted until the end of the year as a measure aimed at helping reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention applies to all 43 million residential renters provided they meet certain income eligibility rules, the Daily Mail reported, adding that an official from the Trump administration said “overwhelming” use of the program is not expected.
The CDC said that the order will last through December 31 and will apply to any renter who does not believe they will earn more than $99,000 in 2020 or $198,000 for couples filing joint tax returns.
In addition, the order applies to renters who didn’t report any income in 2019 or got a coronavirus stimulus check earlier this year, according to Reuters and The Associated Press.
While scores of Americans will no doubt cheer the administration’s decision, not everyone is happy about it.
The National Apartment Association said the order is likely to cause further economic damage and would only worsen what the organization says is a housing affordability crisis while devastating the rental industry.
Without receiving rent payments, property “owners face a financial crisis of their own,” the organization added.
That said, the order isn’t a giveaway of property owners’ revenue.
For one, renters applying for the program will have to make sworn declarations that eviction would make them homeless or otherwise require them to move into a “shared living settlement because the individual has no other available housing options.”
Also, renters will have to affirm they “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent and housing.”
The order warns that program participants may be “prosecuted,” forced to “go to jail” or “pay a fine” if they make fraudulent claims or engage in acts of dishonesty to take part in it.
Also, the program is a reprieve; rent amounts will continue to accrue throughout the life of the program. And, the order doesn’t prevent the “charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis.”
One administration official told reporters that the order was not aimed at enabling renters to simply stop making payments while advising that they should pay even a portion of their rent if possible.
And under terms of the CDC order, renters can “still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment.”
Earlier, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told a House committee that the order sought to ensure that Americans “don’t get thrown out of their rental homes.” He also pressed the Democrat-controlled chamber to approve more rent assistance as part of any new coronavirus relief measure.
One estimate from July said that American renters collectively owed some $21.5 billion in back payments. The amount soared as workers lost their jobs due to mandated business closures, though a collection of federal, state, and local ordinances were employed to keep people in their rental homes.
President Donald Trump asked the CDC Aug. 8 to see if rent relief was “reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”
Mnuchin noted that economies in states and cities that have begun substantial reopening have improved, while regions of the country still under strict lockdown orders have floundered.
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