President Donald Trump signed four executive orders this weekend for coronavirus economic relief, including one meant to prevent evictions. But the order does not offer immediate assistance to help financially struggling families at risk of losing their homes.
While Trump has publicly pushed for Congress to extend the eviction ban put in place by the CARES Act, his housing order does not actually issue an eviction moratorium. Rather, it instructs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to "consider" whether temporarily banning residential evictions is "reasonably necessary" to prevent further spread of Covid-19.
It also instructs the U.S. Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to identify funds that could potentially be used to help renters and homeowners who can't make their housing payments because of the coronavirus.
That means that any financial relief that might materialize from the order will not come soon, Erica Smiley, executive director of Jobs with Justice, a nonprofit advocating for rent relief, tells CNBC Make It.
"This order simply suggests that the CDC and HHS consider whether or not evictions are necessary," says Smiley. "If Trump really wanted to help struggling renters, he would work toward a full eviction moratorium."
In the meantime, renters can still be evicted and homeowners may still lose their homes. Over 30% of U.S. households had outstanding housing payments at the beginning of August, a recent survey from rental website Apartment List found.
The executive order "acts only to mislead renters into believing that they are protected when they are not," Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), wrote in a statement. It offers "false hope and [risks] increased confusion and chaos at a time when renters need assurance that they will not be kicked out of their homes during a pandemic."
Waiting on Congress
Even with the coronavirus recession continuing, Congress has allowed many of the financial provisions from the CARES Act to expire, including the federal eviction moratorium, as it struggles to reach a new deal.
That affects much of the country: Over 30 million people are out of work and about 19 to 23 million renters are at risk of eviction by October, according to the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project, a coalition of economic researchers and legal experts. That's about 20% of renters.
Ideally, Congress's next relief bill will include an extended eviction moratorium and funding for renter and homeowner assistance, housing experts say. That will keep people in their homes and help them pay off any housing bill balances they may owe from the previous four to five months.
In May, House Democrats passed a bill providing $100 billion in renter assistance, $75 billion for homeowners and to extend the eviction ban for a year following its enactment date. Senate Republicans, in their first pass at the next stimulus bill, did not address the eviction moratorium and allocated $3.3 billion for voucher programs for renters.
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