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Trump, CDC move to halt all evictions across U.S. during COVID-19 pandemic

With millions of renters potentially facing evictions because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control is ordering that all evictions across the country be halted through Dec. 31.

The order will cover all renters who earn less than $99,000 per year ($198,000 if filing jointly) who are unable to pay their rent, and are likely to become homeless if forced from their housing.

Unlike a previous federal moratorium that expired in July, this CDC order covers all individuals who are unable to pay rent due to loss of income due to the disease outbreak — the earlier one only covered properties with federally backed mortgages.

Estimates by experts say 23-40 million renters could be affected this year. About 20 percent of American renters — some 20 million — could face eviction by the end of the month without the order, the Aspen Institute said.

"The Constables Office welcomes the CDC eviction moratorium as a way to curb further COVID-19 spread, as evicting families from their homes and sending them to congregate housing such as shelters can pose a public health hazard," Pima County Presiding Constable Kristen Randall said Tuesday.

"It's about damn time," said Randall, whose office serves eviction papers.

"Although we do not yet have details or legal guidance on how this order will affect the way we are currently delaying evictions, we will be working with the state Supreme Court and the Justice Court to make sure we follow this temporary moratorium properly and can integrate it into the governor's executive order delaying evictions," she said.

Those who received a coronavirus stimulus check and people who've incurred extraordinary medical expenses are also covered by the federal order. Those seeking relief under the order must be "using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual's circumstances may permit" and show that "eviction would likely render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting—because the individual has no other available housing options."

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The order is set to take effect when it is published in the Federal Register on Friday.

The CDC said that its order, issued under public health quarantine laws, does not apply in jurisdictions that have more stringent moratoriums on evictions.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey declared a temporary halt to evictions earlier this year, and in July extended it through October. But Ducey's order still allows some evictions to continue, and local housing advocates have said that many eviction orders have continued to be issued by Pima County justices of the peace.

Ducey in July also announced more funding for renters, and a new program to help landlords avoid foreclosures if their tenants are affected. But critics of Arizona's eviction-prevention programs have pointed out that very little money had been distributed across the state.

There is also a local pool of money from the CARES Act, administered through the Constables Office, to assist landlords whose tenants are unable to pay rent.

The Republican governor also established new requirements that tenants take part in rental assistance programs if they cannot fulfill the terms of their leases.

The edict from the Trump administration requires renters seeking relief to file specific paperwork, seek all possible rental assistance, and pay as much rent as they can.

Neither the state or federal measures relieve any renters from paying the full amount of rent owed once the eviction halt ends.

Trump is "committed to helping hardworking Americans stay in their homes and combating the spread of the coronavirus," White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern said.

Under federal law, violations of the eviction halt could result in fines of up to $100,000 and one year in jail for individuals, and $200,000 fines per event for businesses.

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"We are committed to helping families stay in their homes, slowing down the spread of the coronavirus and also matching tenants and landlords up with grants to help pay down mounting debts," said Pima County's Randall. "Our office is proud to be referring tenants directly to two grants provided by the City of Tucson and Pima County and also acting as the point of contact between parties. We are committed to being a part of the solution, and welcome any new tools given to us to help mitigate a potentially escalating disaster."

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courtesy Constable Kristen Randall

Eviction delay declaration

The CDC issued this example declaration for tenants seeking to halt eviction:

DECLARATION UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY FOR THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION’S TEMPORARY HALT IN EVICTIONS TO PREVENT FURTHER SPREAD OF COVID-19

This declaration is for tenants, lessees, or residents of residential properties who are covered by the CDC’s order temporarily halting residential evictions (not including foreclosures on home mortgages) to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Under the CDC’s order you must provide a copy of this declaration to your landlord, owner of the residential property where you live, or other person who has a right to have you evicted or removed from where you live. Each adult listed on the lease, rental agreement, or housing contract should complete this declaration. Unless the CDC order is extended, changed, or ended, the order prevents you from being evicted or removed from where you are living through December 31, 2020. You are still required to pay rent and follow all the other terms of your lease and rules of the place where you live. You may also still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment. This declaration is sworn testimony, meaning that you can be prosecuted, go to jail, or pay a fine if you lie, mislead, or omit important information.

I certify under penalty of perjury, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1746, that the foregoing are true and correct:

I have used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;

I either expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;

I am unable to pay my full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;

I am using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses;

If evicted I would likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because I have no other available housing options.

I understand that I must still pay rent or make a housing payment, and comply with other obligations that I may have under my tenancy, lease agreement, or similar contract. I further understand that fees, penalties, or interest for not paying rent or making a housing payment on time as required by my tenancy, lease agreement, or similar contract may still be charged or collected.

I further understand that at the end of this temporary halt on evictions on December 31, 2020, my housing provider may require payment in full for all payments not made prior to and during the temporary halt and failure to pay may make me subject to eviction pursuant to State and local laws.

I understand that any false or misleading statements or omissions may result in criminal and civil actions for fines, penalties, damages, or imprisonment.