January 18, 2021

President-Elect Joseph R. Biden

Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Incoming Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

To: President-Elect Biden & Incoming Director Walensky,

We are writing to urge you to take immediate action to protect tens of millions of American families and prevent an unprecedented wave of evictions by directing the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and US Department of Justice to immediately enhance, extend, and enforce the federal eviction moratorium issued by the CDC; enact a nationwide moratorium on utility shut-offs; and work with Congress to implement long-lasting housing protections that extend beyond the pandemic crisis to ensure general well-being and an equitable economic recovery for working people across the country.

Our communities are facing unprecedented public health, economic, and housing crises. Decades of public health data demonstrate that access to stable, safe and affordable housing is critical for health and well-being.1 As of December 11, 2020 more than 15 million people in the United States2 were infected with COVID-19 and more than 290,0003 people have died. Ten million people were unemployed; 4 in 10 of those unemployed have been jobless for more than 27 weeks.4

At home, millions of people experience mounting debt. It is estimated that renters will face a total of $70 billion in rent arrears by January5, many with no ability to pay as the economy continues to slow with the recent COVID-19 spike. There are 13.4 million households with children6, and roughly 4 in 10 of these households with children report they have slight or no confidence they can pay next month’s rent7. Such an impact on school aged children and youth would exacerbate infection rates and deepen the psycho-social impacts of evictions across schools and neighborhoods with untold effects over time.

Evictions have immediate and devastating health impacts. In states where eviction protections lapsed, a new study estimates that 433,700 excess individuals have contracted COVID-19, and 10,700 people have died from the virus8.

Even before the pandemic, lack of basic information about tenant rights, legal support, and historic racial inequities in our housing system have put Black, Indigenous, people of color, and low-income people at a disadvantage to find and maintain stable housing. It is no surprise today that Black, Indigenous, people of color, and low-income households bear the greatest burden of this pandemic, experiencing the highest rates of COVID-19 infections, including those caused by the highest rates of housing insecurity9.

Stopping the additional impending tidal wave of evictions and prioritizing housing stability during and beyond the pandemic is a crucial matter of economic and racial justice, and must be enacted immediately as part of a broad, comprehensive approach to the public health and economic crises we face

A universal and comprehensive eviction and utility shut-off moratorium that eliminates the burden on renters to apply and is backed by enforcement on behalf of the Department of Justice is imperative to any effective public health policy and is the most immediate solution to maintain the stability and health of millions of renters and will lead to fewer infections in our communities.

Therefore, we urge your administration to immediately enact the follow executive policies on your first day in office:

 

  1. Enhance and extend the existing CDC eviction moratorium, which expires December 31st, 2020. In order to meaningfully address the housing crisis, the eviction moratorium must cover all tenants, in all types of housing units, and include all parts of the eviction process. The moratorium must be amended to:
    1. Extend the effective date from December 31st, 2020 to 90 days beyond the termination of the federal emergency declared on March 13th, 2020.
    2. Rescind the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document issued by the CDC on October 9th, 2020, which creates the appearance of  loopholes in the moratorium’s protections.
    3. Remove the requirement for a written declaration of need from tenants. This moratorium applies to any residential tenant.
    4. Include guidance to halt sweeps of encampments in the moratorium, as recommended by the CDC.10
    5. Clarify that landlords cannot initiate eviction procedures during the COVID-19 crisis, and that the moratorium applies to all stages of the eviction process including notice, filing, hearing, judgment, and physical eviction.
    6. Clarify that the moratorium covers all evictions, including no fault evictions and evictions at the end of lease term.
    7. Remove the affirmation of evictability based on other, non-payment reasons.
    8. Clarify that eviction judgments entered during the moratorium effective dates will not be enforceable.
    9. Prevent courts from issuing new eviction orders for proceedings that are already in motion; as well as halt or make defunct any eviction proceedings initiated from the original moratorium effect date.
    10. Prohibit the accrual of interest, fees, fines, and other debt related to rental nonpayment for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
    11. Clarify that – on a permanent basis – rent debt accrued during COVID-19 crisis does not constitute grounds for eviction, even once any policies related to an eviction moratorium end.
    12. Prohibit evictions for non-payment of utilities.
    13. Prohibit any reporting of tenants for nonpayment to credit bureaus and other landlords, as any protected nonpayment of rent from being used as a factor in any future rental applications.
    14. Require that if a landlord seeks rent payment, they must also notify tenants of the moratorium.
    15. Dedicate resources to a public awareness campaign to ensure tenants are aware of the moratorium and its provisions.
  2. The CDC should enact an immediate, nationwide moratorium on the shut-offs of electricity, water, broadband, and all other essential utilities. Utilities are essential to public health and the ability to work and care for families. We need a robust nationwide moratorium on all utility shut-offs, reinstatement of disconnected services, waiver of late-payment fees, and forgiveness of all bills for low-wealth households for the duration of the emergency and an extended grace period. While some state regulators and power providers have already instituted moratoria on electricity shut-offs, this must be extended across the country in one consistent policy.
  3. Prioritize Department of Justice resources to enforce the moratorium. The Deputy Attorney General should oversee active implementation of the moratorium and make enforcement of the moratorium a priority of the U.S. Attorney’s offices in each state, to include issuing of criminal fines and penalties already authorized in the existing moratorium. In addition, activities would include:
    1. Coordination between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to monitor compliance with the moratorium and direct Health and Human Services to partner with state and local authorities to implement the moratorium, pursuant to 42 USC 243.
    2. Issue guidance to local law enforcement ordering them not to carry out evictions.
    3. Create a hotline for tenants to report any landlord violation of the moratorium order.

Finally, while an enhanced, enforceable, and extended eviction moratorium will safeguard families against the worst impacts of the crisis now, it is not a long-term solution to the housing crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened. We call on the incoming Biden Administration to create long-term solutions that ensure equitable economic recovery from the pandemic. Upon arrival, the administration should adopt the policy platform detailed in the National Housing Justice Platform and guide the swift implementation of universally canceling rents, mortgages, and utility debt with Congress as flagship policies on the road to equitable economic recovery, and assist state and local governments to that end.

Respectfully,

The undersigned organizations

 

Right To The City Alliance

Human Impact Partners

Working Families Party

9to5 Colorado

9to5 National Association of Working Women

Ability360

AfroResistance

AGUILAS

Aiyash Abraham, State Of Michigan House Of Representatives

Alliance for Housing Justice

Alternatives For Community & Environment

Arise for Social Justice

Asheville Solidarity Network

Audacity Group Social Enterprise

Autonomous Tenants Union

Baltimore Housing Roundtable

Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust

Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program

Boston Tenant Coalition

Bread For The City

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Brown University and Community Health Innovations of RI (CHI-RI)

Building & Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA) Austin

CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

Camino Counseling Collaborative

Carroll Gardens Association

Causa Justa::Just Cause

Center for Economic Democracy

Center for Public Representation

Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

Centro Cultural de México

Chainbreaker Collective

Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School

Charlotte Housing Justice Coalition

Chicago Women’s AIDS Project

Chinatown Community Land Trust

Chinese Progressive Association

City Life Vida Urbana

Citywide Tenant Union of Rochester

Coalition of Occupied Homes in Foreclosure

Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation

Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition

Community Action Agency of Somerville

Community Alliance of Tenants

Community Justice Project

Community Movement Builders

Community Power Collective

Cooperation Jackson

DARE

Denver Artists for Rent Control

Detroit Peoples Platform

Do No Harm Coalition

Doctors for America

Earth Action, Inc.

East Bay Community Law Center

East Bay Permanent Real Estate Collective

El Centro Cultural de Mexico

Equality North Carolina

Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network Jobs with Justice

Faith in the Valley

Family Action Network Movement (FANM)

First Parish in Brookline

Freedom BLOC

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance

Growing Home

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

Health by Design

Health Resources in Action

Hill District Consensus Group

HOACC

Homes For All Newark

Homes For All St Louis

Housing Justice League

Housing Long Beach

Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco

HousingLOUISIANA

HousingNOLA

Human Impact Partners

ICMORE Identifying Communities to Maximize Opportunity Resources & Energy

Indiana Public Health Association

Inquilinxs Unidxs

Ironbound Community Corporation

Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative

Jews for Racial & Economic Justice

Jobs With Justice

Katalyst Professional Industries

Kentuckians for The Commonwealth

KHEPRW

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Lexington Housing Justice Collective

LiBRE

Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy

Lopez Island CLT

Lower Bucks for Change

Lynn United For Change

Madison Alliance on Racial Justice

Metropolitan Council on Housing

Miami Workers Center

Mijente

MomsRising

North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO)

NASCO Development Services

National Council on Independent Living

National Coalition for the Homeless

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Latinx Psychological Association

Neighborhood Funders Group Democratizing Development Program

NETWORK Lobby

New England United For Justice

New York Doctors Coalition

Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson

North Bay Organizing Project

North End Woodward Community Coalition

North Valley Housing Trust/Butte County Homeless Continuum of Care

Open Source Wellness

Organized and United Renters of Michigan City

Organizing For Neighborhood Equity DC (ONE DC)

Partnership for Working Families

People’s Defense Initiative

Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley

Planning Alternatives for Change

PolicyLink

Portland: Neighbors Welcome

Prevention Institute

Progressive Doctors

Projects for Environmental Health, Knowledge, & Action, Inc.

Public Advocates

Rais Op Housing Cooperative

Rashida Tlaib, United States Representative

Renters United Philadelphia

RESULTS DC/MD

Richmond Land

Right To Counsel NYC

Right To The City Boston

Roots Collective GH

Sacred Heart Community Service

San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition

SF Gray Panthers

ShowerBus ‘N CLT Inc

Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude

St. Mary’s Center

Stephanie Change, Michigan State Senate

Strategic Actions for A Just Economy (SAJE)

Struggle for Miami’s Affordable and Sustainable Housing, Inc.

Sunrise Movement

Sunrise PDX

Supportive Housing Coalition of New Mexico

Sustainable Economies Law Center

Sustainable Seattle

Tenants Together

Tenants Union of Washington State

Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO

Texas Homeless Network

The AIDS Institute

The Sidewalk Project

The Women’s Building

Unemployed Workers United

United for a New Economy

University of Michigan School of Public Health

Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance/Housing Justice for All

Urban Habitat

Vallejo Housing Justice Coalition

Violence Free Minnesota

Western Regional Advocacy Project

Women’s Community Revitalization Project

Worried About Rent (WAR)/Housing Initiative Project, Phoenix (HIP)

Young Invincibles

Youth United for Community Action

Zero Breast Cancer

 

[list updated January 18 @ 10AM ET]

Footnotes

  1. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20180313.396577/full/
  2. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/index.html#trends_totalandratecases
  3. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/index.html#trends_totalandratedeaths
  4. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/07/unemployed-debt-rent-utilities/
  6. https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=housing%20tenure%20children&tid=ACSDT1Y2019.B25012&hidePreview=false
  7. https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/tables/hhp/2020/wk19/housing2b_week19.xlsx
  8. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Papers.cfm?abstract_id=3739576
  9. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3736457
  10. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/homeless-shelters/unsheltered-homelessness.html#facility-encampments