The unsigned majority opinion determined that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when the public-health agency issued “a new order temporarily halting evictions in counties with heightened levels of community transmission.” (Thanks to the more contagious Delta strain, the two-month moratorium effectively covered counties in which 90 percent of the U.S. population resides.) Thursday’s opinion states that the CDC’s reliance on a statute authorizing the agency to block evictions in circumstances like “fumigation and pest extermination” does not give it the “sweeping authority” to enact this ban amid a pandemic that is worsening once again.
The decision on Thursday night — potentially impacting over 3.5 million households who are at risk of eviction over the next two months — is the latest in a months-long process between the Supreme Court and the White House. In June, a 5-4 majority voted to allow the CDC’s previous eviction ban to stand until its expiration at the end of July; in the majority opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that he considered the moratorium unlawful, but would allow the order to stand in order to ensure an “orderly distribution” of aid to renters. (Kavanaugh also warned not to extend a ban without congressional approval.) Despite having all of July to prepare for the moratorium’s end, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats scrambled at the end of the month to cover Americans at risk of eviction. Only after the order expired and Representative Cori Bush held a successful protest sleeping on the steps of the Capitol did Biden request that the CDC issue a limited moratorium.
With the federal order voided, there are patchwork protections in a handful of states, though many of those, including the New York ban lapsing on August 31, are expiring in the coming weeks. And while there are tens of billions of dollars in rent relief available, only 11 percent of those funds have actually been distributed.