A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moratorium on evictions may be lifted Wednesday, when a federal judge’s ruling will go into effect.
The U.S. Justice Department has filed an appeal and is asking for an emergency stay of the ruling, which was released last week but was delayed in order to give all parties time to respond.
Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the CDC overstepped its authority when it issued a September 2020 order placing a national moratorium on evictions from rental units.
It’s unclear to what extent the Friedrich ruling will affect Florida. Several states have enacted their own bans on evictions, but Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted Florida’s moratorium in October.
At the beginning of the pandemic eviction filings in Gainesville dropped 80-85 percent below average, according to the Eviction Lab, a Princeton University project that monitors nationwide trends in evictions. Fewer than a 100 were filed between April and July 2020. But since a local moratorium expired on July 28, 2020, the number of eviction filings have been creeping up, although they still remain below average for the area.
An estimated 1,071 evictions have been filed in Gainesville since March 15, 2020, per Eviction Lab. For comparison, Gainesville averaged 1,374 eviction filings a year and 561 actual evictions for the 2012-2016 period.
The CDC moratorium, initially developed by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration, allows renters to send a declaration to their landlords that they meet federal guidelines and should not be evicted.
The moratorium applies to single people making less than $98,000 and families making less than $198,000.
To be eligible for protection, the renters must show a “substantial” loss of income and demonstrate they have applied for available aid and are making partial payments to the landlord, according to a release from the Florida Housing Coalition. The renters also have to declare they would likely become homeless or be forced to live in cramped, overcrowded conditions after evictions.
Friedrich is the fourth federal judge to rule against the CDC moratorium, but federal judges in Louisiana and Georgia have upheld the moratorium. This disagreement at the district court level may limit the scope of Friedrich’s decision, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will have to rule on the Justice Department’s motion to stay the overturning of the eviction ban.
Possibly eliminating the evictions ban comes just as the Florida Department of Children and Families is launching a new program to provide rent and utility assistance to lower income families in the state, according to a news release from DCF.
Funded by $1.4 billion from the federal government, the Opportunities for Utilities and Rental Assistance—or OUR Florida—program is taking applications to help with rent and utility payments.
The OUR Florida program is open to renters who are at or below 80 percent of the Average Median Income with priority given to those at 50 percent of AMI. The AMI eligibility level differs from county to county and is affected by the number of people in a household. For example, in Alachua County, single people making $41,000 or less, two-person households making $46,850, or a four-person household with an income of $58,550 would qualify for the OUR Florida program, according to the program’s eligibility calculator.
Florida residents can use the calculator and apply for funds directly at OurFlorida.com.
Alachua County also received $8 million in federal funds to help fund an Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) that helps people who live in the county cover rent and utility bills. Money from the program is paid to landlords and utility companies, not to the residents.
The income eligibility limits for Alachua County’s program are lower, according to the county’s ERAP webpage. For example, to qualify, single-person household incomes would need to be $39,100 or less, while a household of four would need to make $55,850 or less.
More information about the ERAP program and applications are available at the ERAP’s website.