Gaps in the CDC’s eviction ban could leave some renters homeless, housing advocates say

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a historic nationwide ban on evictions, but ambiguous language in the order leaves open the possibility that renters could still be forced to leave their homes during a global pandemic, housing advocates say.

The CDC’s moratorium went into effect immediately when it was announced on Tuesday and will remain in place until Dec. 31. Altogether, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, the moratorium should protect some 40 million renters nationwide.

(For more information on how renters can access the protections provided by the CDC’s eviction ban, click here.)

The CDC’s order specifically prohibits people from being evicted from rental units for nonpayment of their rent. However, there are still a range of scenarios where a tenant could be kicked out of their home.

“The overall spirit of the order is designed to protect public health and keep people from being evicted except for reasons of misconduct,” said Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project. “But the order’s very ambiguous about how some of those situations would work.”

The moratorium carves out some exceptions for landlords: Tenants can still be evicted for engaging in criminal activity on the premises, threatening the health or safety of other residents, damaging the property or violating any other contractual obligation of the rent.

Read more: California eviction moratorium is ‘a real nightmare’ for renters to understand — here’s what you need to know

But it’s not clear what a landlord can do, for instance, if a renter’s lease is set to expire, but the property’s owner doesn’t want to renew with them. If a tenant were to remain on the property past the period of their original lease, they would technically be violating the terms of the contract, Dunn said, which would mean the landlord could technically still have the right to evict them.

“It leads to an absurd result,” Dunn said. “You’re in a Catch-22 where in order to comply with your lease to avoid being evicted you need to the leave the property.”

‘The overall spirit of the order is designed to protect public health and keep people from being evicted except for reasons of misconduct.’

— Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project

Also unclear is how the law applies for people without a formal lease agreement. This has become a concern in New York State in particular. The state currently has its own moratorium on eviction that covers people who have verbal agreements or month-to-month arrangements with landlords, protecting them from being evicted for not paying their rent in full.

Many people nationwide may also be subtenants who are not on the original lease and don’t have a direct relationship with the property’s landlord, or a lease may only have one of multiple roommates officially listed.

Additionally, the order explicitly exempts hotels and motels from abiding by its rules. Nationwide, though, many low-income individuals live in extended-stay hotels or motels as if they were apartments, Dunn said.

“A lot of people in different parts of the country don’t have written leases,” said Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society in New York. “It’s just not clear from the order whether those tenants would be protected.”

The CDC’s order states that in cases where a state or municipality has its own eviction ban that provides as much or more protection as the national order, the nationwide moratorium will not apply. New York’s moratorium is set to expire on Sept. 30 — as a result, Davidson said she and other advocates are pushing for the state to extend its own moratorium given that it offers more protection.

Whether renters are safe to stay in their homes in these various scenarios not explicitly mentioned in the CDC’s directive will come down to judges. The national moratorium does not explicitly prevent eviction filings from occurring — though landlords who evict tenants who were covered by the moratorium could face criminal penalties including jail time if those people become sick with COVID-19.

“There will be courts all across this country all making this determination,” Davidson said. “It’s a big country out there with lots of different courts at every level. It would not surprise me that some places in this country would not want to follow a federal rule.”

Another concern is what might happen in a situation where landlords face foreclosure themselves. Many small landlords across the country are facing severe financial challenges as a result of tenants not being able to pay rent. Moratoria like the CDC’s order could make matters worse, because the policy was not immediately accompanied with extra funding for emergency rental assistance.

Many low-income Americans live in hotels and motels, but the CDC’s order exempts those businesses from the temporary ban on evictions.

During the housing crisis that preceded the Great Recession, many Americans suddenly faced eviction when their landlord went into foreclosure. Today, renters do have more protections. In 2018, President Trump signed into law a permanent extension of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. This law allow renters to remain in homes for at least 90 days or the remaining term of the lease if the property goes into foreclosure.

But after those 90 days, tenants could face significant challenges securing safe and affordable housing, particularly if they are unemployed or were unable to pay rent for many months because of the pandemic.

Ultimately, the CDC’s nationwide eviction ban is not a permanent solution, housing and legal experts said. “It does not actually prevent evictions — it delays them,” said Diane Yentel, CEO and president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “It buys some time for the actual solution, which is emergency rental assistance.”

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The economy still has a mountain to climb, but it’s digging itself out faster than expected

Is the economy half-full or half-empty? That’s the burning question after a surprisingly upbeat U.S. jobs report for August.

Read: U.S. regains 1.4 million jobs in August and unemployment drops to 8.4%

The expiration of federal aid for the unemployed at the end of the July and the still-spreading coronvirus were supposed to put a big dent in the economy last month. But so far the evidence is thin.

To be sure, the pace of the recovery has decelerated. The U.S. is regaining jobs at a slower pace several months after the economy reopened, consumer spending has softened and businesses are still hesitant to invest.

Read: Economy softened in August, Fed says, as some temporary layoffs turn permanent

Yet the economy is still expanding and looks likely to continue to do so. More people are going out to eat, states such as New York are easing coronavirus restrictions, schools around the country are trying to start back up and businesses are getting creative in making their premises safer for customers and employees alike.

“The big picture is that even in the face of a summer flare-up in virus cases, the U.S. economy managed to soldier on reasonably well,’ said Douglas Porter, chief economist of BMO Capital Markets.

Read: Initial jobless claims fall to new pandemic low of 881,000 — but there’s a big catch

Big hurdles still remain, of course.

The coronavirus hasn’t gone away and there’s still no cure, leaving many businesses in the lurch. Restaurants can’t fully reopen, brick-and-mortar retailers are bereft of traffic, airports are mostly empty, hotel rooms are largely unoccupied and the major sports leagues are either playing in bubbles or sharply limiting attendance. Life is far from normal.

“Clearly some industries remain flat on their back, and a full labor market recovery for the U.S. economy is not yet in sight,” said chief economist Scott Anderson of Bank of the West.

Where does the economy goes from here? Most Wall Street

economists predict a slow and gradual recovery, punctuated by occasional setbacks.

Many are still worried the end of federal aid will eventually take the air out of the recovery unless Democrats and Republicans break a deadlock in Washington and come to the rescue again. So far neither side has budged just a few months before what could turn out to be one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history in November.

The surprisingly upbeat August employment report, ironically, could make a deal on more fiscal stimulus harder by undercutting the argument that more aid is needed. Republicans might decide the economy doesn’t need any more help after several trillion dollars in government stimulus and the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates to a record low.

Don’t expect the case in favor of more aid to get much support anytime soon, either. The next few weeks are largely barren of major economic indicators that will reveal any big change in the economy.

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How to celebrate Labor Day safely and why gaps in the CDC’s eviction ban could leave some renters homeless

Have a good start to the Labor Day Weekend, MarketWatchers! Don’t miss these top stories:

Celebrate Labor Day safely: Keep the socializing outside and don’t touch anyone

Don’t let the coronavirus crash your holiday barbecue

Think twice before wearing a face shield to protect against COVID-19 instead of a cloth face mask — here’s why

Teachers and students are returning to schools and colleges — sometimes wearing face shields in lieu of masks.

Gaps in the CDC’s eviction ban could leave some renters homeless, housing advocates say

Ambiguity in the wording of the national eviction moratorium means that some Americans could still lose their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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‘My concern is that, if something happens to him, I will end up with a lien on my home.’

‘We can’t let our guard down’: Scientists say some children could spread COVID-19 even if they have antibodies

‘With most viruses, when you start to detect antibodies, you won’t detect the virus anymore. But with COVID-19, we’re seeing both.’

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U.S. regains 1.4 million jobs in August and unemployment drops to 8.4% as economic recovery shows resilience

The numbers: The U.S. regained 1.4 million jobs in August and the unemployment rate posted a surprisingly large drop to 8.4%, suggesting an economic recovery is still plowing ahead even if the pace of growth has slowed since the start of the summer.

The increase in hiring last month exceeded Wall Street’s forecast. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 1.2 million gain. U.S. stocks fell in Friday trades.

The employment picture was a bit softer after stripping out the hiring of 238,000 temporary Census workers and those who work in public education.

Private-sector hiring rose by 1 million, down from 1.48 million in July, the government said Friday.

The most positive news was a big reduction in the official jobless rate to 8.4% from 10.2%, marking the fourth straight decline from a pandemic peak of 14.7%. A separate survey of households showed a much larger number of people returning to work (3.76 million) and a sharp decline in the unemployed (-2.8 million).

“I would say today’s jobs report was a good one,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told NPR in an interview.

One caveat: The jobless rate would have been closer to 9% if households gave an accurate description of their employment status, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Some survey respondents have mistakenly classified themselves as absent from work instead of unemployed, a problem that has plagued the BLS survey since the pandemic began.

Several million Americans still haven’t returned to the labor force, however, since the start of the pandemic and some 29 million were reportedly receiving jobless benefits as of the middle of last month.

Read: Initial jobless claims fall to new pandemic low of 881,000 — but there’s a big catch

The start of the school year, what’s more, has also spawned fresh problems for companies and their employers.Many parents lack day-care options and are grappling with how to care for their school-age children learning at home while they work at the same time.

A new Federal Reserve study found the new school year has made it harder for businesses that are hiring to attract workers.

Read:Economy softened in August, Fed says, as some temporary layoffs turn permanent

A stalemate in Congress over another financial-rescue package has also left many unemployed Americans in a more precarious financial position. A $600 federal unemployment stipend expired at the end of July and small businesses can no longer apply for loans to help cover payroll costs.

Read: Did the expired $600 federal jobless benefit keep people from going back to work?

A spate of companies such as American Airlines

and MGM Resorts
meanwhile, have announced new furloughs and layoffs with their businesses still in a deep slump.

A United Airlines ticket agent helps a passenger check in for a flight at San Francisco International Airport. United Airlines announced plans to furlough over 16,000 workers including pilots, flight attendants and technicians.

Getty Images

Some companies warn job losses could become permanent without more government help or a faster rebound in the economy.

The U.S. shed more than 22 million jobs during the worst of the pandemic. So far it’s restored about 10.7 million jobs, leaving about half of the people who were laid off still out of work.

What happened: The number of peopled employed by government jumped by 344,000, largely because of a big increase in temporary Census workers.

In the private sector, retailers led the way in hiring again as they brought back almost one-quarter of a million workers. Restaurants also added 134,000 jobs.

Retailers, restaurants and hotels have borne the brunt of the U.S. effort to contain the coronavirus. The number of customers they can allow has been restricted and many Americans are still too worried about the coronvirus to eat out, go to stores or travel.

Even after a spate of rehiring, for instance, some 2.5 million restaurants jobs still haven’t returned.

The rest of the hiring was scattered in a variety of industries.

White-collar businesses added almost 200,000 jobs, though more than half were temporary. Transportation and warehousing jobs increased by 78,000. Health-care providers boosted payrolls by 75,000. Financial firms hired 36,000 workers. And manufacturers added 29,000 people.

Average hourly wages rose 11 cents to $29.47 an hour. The yearly rate of pay appeared to soar early in the pandemic, but only because more lower-paid workers lost their jobs than higher paid ones.

The normally slow-changing wage data is likely to be less useful until the economy is mostly recovered. Wages were growing about 3% a year before the pandemic.

The increase in employment in July marked down slightly to 1.73 million. The increase in June was little changed at 4.79 million.

How many people are really unemployed, though, is still a bit of a mystery. The monthly employment survey puts the number at 13.6 million, but the weekly jobless-claims report indicates it could be closer to 30 million.

A broader measure of unemployment known as the U6 suggests the “real” rate was 14.2% in August, down from 16.5% in the prior month. The U6 rate includes workers who can only find part-time work and those who have become too discouraged to look for jobs because so few are available.

Big picture: The U.S. economy have proven quite resilient, expanding again in August despite the summer viral outbreak and the end of massive federal benefits. A variety of reports such as restaurant reservations, retail spending and in-store shopping also suggest an increase in consumer spending and steady if slower growth in the economy.

What’s less clear is whether the economy can sustain its foward progress.

Unemployment remains sky-high, the threat of a fresh wave of layoffs is rising and the coronavirus is still very much a threat. A divided political leadership in Washington and one of the most divisive presidential elections in history is unlikely to help, either.

See:Marketwatch’s Coronavirus Economic Recovery Tracker

What they are saying? “The August employment report was stronger than we expected,” said chief economist Richard Moody of Regions Financial. “ That said, while the labor market is clearly healing, it remains far from healthy.”

There are certain industries that are essentially stuck until the virus recedes further, such as air travel, sporting event and concert admissions,” said chief economist Stephen Stanley. “But for most of the economy, the return to normal is occurring inch by inch and day by day, with plenty more to come.”

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
S&P 500

and Nasdaq

all declined in Friday trades.

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Shutdown prospects dim, but so do fiscal-stimulus odds as Pelosi, Mnuchin eye separate tracks ahead of September free-for-all

An agreement to keep a temporary government-funding bill clean of extraneous provisions will likely ease fears of another government shutdown.

But it may come at the cost of a robust coronavirus-aid package that many economists say is needed to tamp down the possibility of a double-dip recession.

Reports circulated late Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had agreed to try to avoid a shutdown when current funding expires by working on a “clean” continuing resolution rather than allowing the issue to be linked to stalled stimulus talks.

A source familiar with the plan said the pair “agreed it should be clean as they both want to keep government open.” There was no discussion of how long the stopgap resolution should last.

The informal pact came after increased speculation ahead of lawmakers’ looming return to Washington that the Sept. 30 deadline, rather than spurring a deal on stimulus, could result in another government shutdown similar to the 34-day one in late 2018 and early 2019.

But some observers worry that without the stick of the shutdown, the carrot of the political popularity of passing more aid — an idea with broad bipartisan support in general, if not on the specifics — won’t be enough.

Talks over another coronavirus financial-aid package foundered in July, and attempts to restart them in August failed. Pelosi said Democrats were willing to come down to $2.2 trillion for the plan, while Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said the Trump administration’s offer had come up to $1.1 trillion.

Read: Double-dip recession chances significant, ex-CBO chiefs say, citing ‘policymaking malpractice’

Pelosi remains convinced of the urgency of getting a stimulus package, her spokesman said.

“She has said she believes they should be separate, as the COVID package is urgent and needs to come ASAP,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in an email.

But combining the talks with the consequence of a shutdown if they do not succeed may be the best way to get a deal, observers say.

“There’s a decent chance they can work something out in the end, but I don’t see how it’s possible,” said Jim Manley, a former spokesman for Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015.

“Combined, it would raise the likelihood that both get done,” said a former Republican congressional leadership aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“I’m getting more and more pessimistic about substantial COVID response legislation,” the former aide said, noting the closer it gets to the Nov. 3 elections the harder it will be for either side to make significant concessions.

If the bills are separated though, the former aide said, a path could be cleared easily for a stopgap spending bill by itself that would keep the government open into the potential post-election lame-duck period.

“There’s definitely a danger of shutdown,” the ex-aide said. If the president is trailing in the polls, he could insist on provisions in the continuing resolution that Democrats could not accept, forcing their hand.

“The president is the real wild card in this,” Manley agreed.

As if keeping the government’s lights on and finishing hard-fought negotiations that started in July weren’t enough, Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to do two more things: Extend the legislative authority for federal transportation and flood-insurance programs.

Absent a reauthorization, the flood-insurance program’s ability to borrow money to cover losses would be reduced from $30 billion to $1 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. The transportation bill had been seen as the legislative vehicle to do a big infrastructure bill, a prospect that now seems remote.

In addition to those extensions, which typically would be rolled into a stopgap spending bill, both the House and Senate face the prospect of votes on bills that, charitably speaking, are not expected to be signed into law soon but are instead meant to boost support for the parties ahead of the November elections.

In the House, in the week of Sept. 21, a vote is expected on a bill to largely decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The Senate will have a procedural vote on a federal judge nomination upon its return Sept. 8 but could turn to other issues afterwards.

Before leaving for the summer recess in August, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advanced three House bills procedurally, including one on statehood for the District of Columbia, potentially easing their way for floor votes in September.

Manley said those would be “message bills designed to boost the base.”

Even so, they will eat into precious floor time. Between traditional Thursday departures and two religious holidays in the month, the Senate is likely to be in session only 11 days through Sept. 30. While House committees will work next week, the full House is also set to be in session for only 11 days before the end of the month.

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