RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Millions of Americans have been at real risk of eviction over the past few months. Many of those people have now been given a lifeline. In a dramatic move, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ordering a halt on evictions across the country through the end of this year. NPR's Chris Arnold is reporting on this and joins us now. Chris, good morning. So, I mean, this a huge move by the CDC. It doesn't, though, seem on its face like something the agency would have the power to do.
CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel. Yeah. So, I mean, you might think that because, especially so far during this pandemic, we've seen nothing very forceful from the CDC. It's been criticized for having voluntary guidance that let states and businesses kind of do whatever they want. If that's the CDC sort of, you know, walking on little kitty cat feet, this though is the CDC booming its feet like Paul Bunyan or something and doing something much more dramatic. And the CDC says it does have the authority under the Public Health Service Act of 1944 that gives the government broad power to stem the spread of communicable diseases. And, look, I mean, the basic idea, of course, is that forcing people out into homeless shelters or crammed together living with relatives, that that is very likely to get a lot more people sick.
MARTIN: So who does this eviction ban apply to specifically?
ARNOLD: All right. Well, quickly, to qualify, renters have to sign a declaration saying that they tried to get unemployment benefits or other kinds of support, that they'll make partial payments, as much as they can afford to their landlord, they can't make more than about $100,000 a year or twice that if you file jointly and that if you're evicted, you have no other option than homelessness or living with more people in close proximity.
MARTIN: Which would increase the risk, which is exactly what they're trying to avoid. So how many people are we talking about? How many people would this effect?
ARNOLD: We're talking about a lot of people. One estimate from the National Low Income Housing Coalition is 30 to 40 million people in 17 million households or families were at risk of losing their home by the end of the year if something like this wasn't done. Diane Yentel is the CEO of, the group. And I spoke to her last night.
DIANE YENTEL: Well, my reaction is a feeling of tremendous relief. I mean, it's a pretty extraordinary and unprecedented measure that the White House is taking that will save lives and prevent tens of millions of people from losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic.
ARNOLD: But she says also Congress or the White House should have done this months ago. And instead, we've had this crazy quilt patchwork of federal, state, local moratoriums, lots of people weren't covered, and thousands of people have already been evicted.
MARTIN: What are you hearing from landlords about this, Chris?
ARNOLD: Well, in short, the landlords are saying, well, who's supposed to pay for this? You know, Democrats in Congress had plans for a moratorium, but along with that was $100 billion of assistance to renters and landlords to pay for that. That is not a part of this order. I spoke to Greg Brown. He's with the National Apartment Association.
GREG BROWN: We're really concerned about this because if the moratorium is put in place, rents are not paid, but the owners continue to have to meet their financial obligations. And how are they supposed to do that? Who's going to help them pay their bills?
ARNOLD: And it's not just landlords who want the rental assistance. Diane Yentel, who we heard from, she too says, look, this needs to be coupled with federal money to pay for missed rent.
YENTEL: It's a half measure. Eviction moratoriums on their own create a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when those moratoriums eventually expire and back rent is due and renters are no more able to pay it then than they were at the beginning of the pandemic.
ARNOLD: And we should say, all this puts pressure on lawmakers to make a deal and come up with some money to pay and help people struggling during the pandemic.
MARTIN: NPR's Chris Arnold, thank you.
ARNOLD: You're welcome.
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