Trump order prompts CDC to ban coronavirus-related evictions through the end of 2020

The move would impose criminal charges on landlords who disobey the order

The White House announced Tuesday that it would ban evictions through the end of the year of tenants who are not able to pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following an Aug. 8 executive order by President Trump, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a temporary eviction moratorium and will impose penalties on landlords who violate the ban.

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Evictions for other reasons will be allowed to continue.

Shaunta Cain, one of the formerly homeless people who has been living in the Rodeway Inn in Dania Beach, listens during a news conference at the hotel, Monday, July 13, 2020. A last-minute reprieve from the city of Fort Lauderdale spared the residents from possible eviction. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Shaunta Cain, one of the formerly homeless people who has been living in the Rodeway Inn in Dania Beach, listens during a news conference at the hotel, Monday, July 13, 2020. A last-minute reprieve from the city of Fort Lauderdale spared the residents from possible eviction. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

According to the CDC emergency order, "a person violating this Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $100,000 if the violation does not result in a death or one year in jail, or both, or a fine of no more than $250,000 if the violation results in a death or one year in jail, or both, or as otherwise provided by law," as the agency seeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"An organization violating this Order may be subject to a fine of no more than $200,000 per event if the violation does not result in a death or $500,000 per event if the violation results in a death or as otherwise provided by law," it added. "The U.S. Department of Justice may initiate court proceedings as appropriate seeking imposition of these criminal penalties."

As POLITICO reported Tuesday, this move marks the Trump administration's most audacious action yet to curb mass evictions in the final months before the November election.

Pressure on the administration has grown since a federal moratorium and a $600-a-week unemployment stipend both lapsed at the end of July.

Speaking in testimony before the House coronavirus subcommittee on Tuesday, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin explained that the order would impact up to 40 million renters, whereas the March eviction ban -- part of a massive financial stimulus package -- protected about a quarter of the nation's tenants living in federally financed rental units.

In addition, the new ban covers renters who prove that they have lost “substantial” income, are making their "best efforts" to pay as much of their rent as possible and expect to earn no more than  $99,000 this year or received a stimulus check.

While some housing advocates have supported this renewed action, many are wary about long-term viability in an uncertain economic future.

Negotiations between the White House and Congress over additional economic relief legislation fragmented a few weeks ago.

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Although Mnuchin said he supports bipartisan legislation that gives specific rental assistance to those in need, the president's initial executive order in August drew criticism because it directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC to “consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions” are necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus instead of extending the four-month eviction moratorium.