Supreme Court Sides Against Small Business Owners

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the CDC’s current moratorium on evicting tenants, which allows the moratorium to remain in effect until the end of July.

The Court decision marks a major victory for Joe Biden, who had been seeking to extend the moratorium’s expiration date of June 30 until July 31. Apparently, Biden had hoped that such an extension would enable his administration to have additional time for distributing the $21.5B that has been authorized for emergency rental assistance payments via the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The Director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, announced the decision, noting that she also anticipated for the latest extension to be “the final extension of the moratorium.”

The Supreme Court had heard the Alabama Association of Realtors v. United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which had been initially brought in may by a group of real estate trade association members and realtors from Georgia and Alabama. According to this group, the extended moratorium has resulted in a $13B burden of unpaid monthly rent for landlords across the nation. Moreover, the relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions also reveals the “public health” justification of the CDC to be moot.

According to the plaintiffs, if United States citizens are able to gather indoors with other people without any adherence to the most basic of COVID precautions, “then there is no longer any public-health rationale for the moratorium.”

Dabney Friedrich, a U.S. District Court Judge, sided in favor of the realtors, observing that the justification provided by the CDC did not align with the authority given to the agency by the Public Health Service Act of 1944. Nonetheless, Friedrich’s court placed her ruling in a pending appeal state, which opened up the way for the realtors to mount a challenge in the Supreme Court.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the majority, observing that the CDC had in fact surpassed its authority through providing multiple moratorium extensions. However, Kavanaugh also noted that the July 31 deadline would provide more time for the “orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds.”

Moreover, Kavanaugh included a note that additional extension of the moratorium must require “specific” and “clear” authorization from Congress.

Through allowing the moratorium extension to July 31, Kavanaugh was joined with Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer, as well as Chief Justice John Roberts. On the other hand, Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Samuel Alito Jr. had voted in favor of letting the moratorium expire as originally planned, at the end of June.

The CDC had acted on guidance from then-President Trump, when it issued an initial moratorium set to expire at the end of 2020. However, the moratorium has since been extended four more times, with the latest extension being July 31.

This extension will ensure that no single person earning under $99k per year nor married couple earning under $198k per year will be evicted in the next month over financial hardships endured during the pandemic.