AG Ellison supports CDC pandemic eviction ban at Supreme Court
Coalition of 23 AGs argue millions of evictions during ongoing pandemic would increase spread of COVID-19, threaten pandemic economic recovery
June 14, 2021
Minnesota’s executive order suspending evictions protects Minnesotans, but CDC’s order is critical to prevent spread of COVID-19 across state lines
June 11, 2021 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a coalition of 23 attorneys general in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that prohibits evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to help stop the spread of the virus.
In an amicus brief filed in Alabama Assoc. of Realtors v. HHS, which is on emergency application to the Supreme Court, the attorneys general argue that the CDC’s eviction moratorium should remain in place and that states would face potentially catastrophic harm if it is suddenly vacated. Specifically, the coalition, led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, argues that without the moratorium in place, millions of vulnerable individuals would be unsafely forced from their homes and into streets, crowded shelters, and others’ homes across state lines, risking spreading COVID-19. With only over half of Americans fully vaccinated, such action could jeopardize the United States’ fragile health and economic recovery.
Minnesotans are protected by Governor Tim Walz's Executive Order 20-79 suspending evictions during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency, but not all states have such protections in place at the state level. The CDC’s order, which applies nationally, is critical in slowing or preventing the spread of COVID-19 across state lines.
“We can all be glad that new COVID cases and hospitalizations are falling, and that the numbers of people vaccinated are rising — but we aren’t out of the woods yet, so the CDC moratorium must remain in place,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Millions of people are counting on the CDC’s and other states’ evictions bans to keep them safe from the spread of COVID — especially people of color and low-income folks, who have been disproportionately hit by COVID and among whom vaccination rates still lag shamefully. But the CDC moratorium doesn’t protect only them: it protects all Americans and America’s economic recovery. Every American and every Minnesotan has an interest in it remaining in place. That’s why I’m proud to support it at the Supreme Court.”
CBC eviction moratorium, legal challenge
In 2020, Congress passed COVID-19 relief legislation, which included a 120-day eviction moratorium for certain rental properties. When that legislation expired in July 2020, the CDC issued its own eviction moratorium order under its authority to protect public health. The CDC order protects certain tenants who aren’t able to pay full rent because of a loss of income or medical expenses from being evicted at residential properties nationwide. The order was originally set to expire on December 31, 2020, but was extended by Congress through January 31, 2021, and has been further extended by the CDC. It is currently set to run through June 30, 2021 and could be extended again.
The eviction ban was challenged by property owners, managers, and trade associations, who want to resume evictions. The lower court in this case ruled that the CDC does not have the authority to order a national eviction ban, but granted the government’s request to stay the court’s decision pending appeal. After the court of appeals denied plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the stay, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, asking for the stay to be vacated.
In their amicus brief filed in Alabama Assoc. of Realtors v. HHS, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition urge the Supreme Court to allow the CDC’s eviction moratorium to remain in place because:
• Eliminating the CDC Order would throw state COVID-19 responses into disarray. To stop the spread of COVID-19, every state has implemented some measure of social distancing and has, in some form, encouraged or required individuals to stay at home if possible. States relied on the CDC Order as part of their broad COVID-19 response, with some states expressly adopting the CDC Order under state authority. Others relied on the CDC Order to stop evictions and did not pass their own eviction regulations to avoid creating confusion. For states that enacted their own, more expansive protections against eviction, the CDC Order acts as a national floor, preventing spillover effects from neighboring states with fewer protections against evictions.
• The pandemic is still ongoing and suddenly vacating the ban would irreparably harm the states. The risk of COVID-19 remains potentially catastrophic even amid the vaccine rollout. Roughly half of U.S. adults remain unvaccinated, and the vaccine is currently available only for those 12 years of age and older. And, although numbers are declining, more than 14,000 cases are still reported daily, and over 2,500 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 each week. If the CDC’s Order was vacated, millions of people would suddenly be thrown out of their homes and forced to move in with friends or family, into shelters, or onto the street. According to the CDC, as many as 30-40 million American renters are at risk of eviction, and at least four million are at “imminent risk.” If these individuals and families are evicted, that would significantly increase the potential for the spread of COVID-19. This would not only harm the individuals directly affected, but it would also threaten entire communities and public health.
• Renters and their families remain disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19. Americans at risk of eviction are disproportionately unlikely to be vaccinated. Both evictions and COVID transmission are more frequent in lower-income neighborhoods. Additionally, a significant percentage of renter households who have fallen behind on rent have children, many of whom cannot currently get vaccinated.
• COVID-19 does not respect state borders. A national response, like the CDC’s eviction moratorium, is needed to control the spread of COVID-19. A patchwork jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction approach cannot contain a virus that moves with infected people across state lines. Additionally, research has shown that when households are evicted, they move in with friends or family. Mixing households—which may happen across state lines—increases the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
• A pause on evictions is still needed for economic reasons. Many people still cannot pay the back rent they owe while the nation slowly reopens. The federal government has appropriated more than $45 billion to help renters catch up on their rent, and these funds are being provided to state and local governments. It takes time for states to properly disburse these payments to their residents.
Joining Attorney General Ellison in today’s brief, which was led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.