TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Amid the push to remain open and return to normal, renters are getting a new, though temporary, relief from evictions through a targeted-eviction protection order in areas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says have high COVID-19 transmission due to the delta variant.
The new eviction order extends protections until Oct. 3 but focuses on areas where the delta variant’s spread is highest, including states like Florida.
The CDC order issued on Aug. 3 temporarily halts evictions in counties where “unexpected developments in the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic” and the rise of the delta variant, are making the case numbers “rapidly increase.”
Delta deepens political divides as virus spreads
As delta deepens the divide between some state and local governments, and some states and the federal government, ahead of the CDC’s order President Joe Biden criticized state officials and lawmakers who have either avoided or prevented further restrictions and containment strategies.
“If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing,” Biden said in the news conference on Tuesday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to fight against the right for local governments to enact their own COVID-19 protocols and protections, in schools, cities and counties. In defiance of the state’s laws and governmental orders, some municipalities and school districts activated orders intended to safeguard their populations against the delta variant’s spread.
While COVID-19 continues to sweep across the unvaccinated population, the CDC has ordered the targeted eviction ban for specific counties where the virus rages largely out of control. The agency’s COVID tracker shows most of the country is at a “high” risk for COVID-19 community transmission.
In Florida, daily case numbers are continuing to increase, with no signs of slowing down. All of the counties in the state currently qualify under the new eviction protection order. The CDC tracker shows that in Florida, all of the counties are at high risk except Glades County, where the risk is “substantial” instead.
Meanwhile, as DeSantis tries to block municipal restrictions, Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says Americans should “stop with the mask fetish,” and released a new video on Twitter asserting that it’s your right to wear a mask but that masks won’t save the country from COVID-19.
Florida still isn’t out of the woods, with schools that enforce mask mandates now having to contend with the governor removing their state funding, through a recently signed executive order. The new order builds upon a recent piece of legislation that outright bans local emergency orders and limits the governor’s own powers to have a prolonged state of emergency for crises like COVID-19.
The DeSantis’s political opponents, including Democratic gubernatorial candidates Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist have both criticized the lack of emergency orders and actions which they view as antithetical to pandemic safety.
Eligibility in Florida
The new order “is intended to target specific areas of the country where cases are rapidly increasing, which likely would be exacerbated by mass evictions.” The order is specifically titled and designed to “prevent the further spread of COVID-19” in communities with substantial or high levels of transmission.
The CDC report shows that 1,975 counties in the U.S., or 61.34%, are at high transmission risk, while 629 counties, or 19.53% are at substantial risk. Florida’s 67 counties account for 66 high transmission areas or about 2% of the country.
All of Florida qualifies for the CDC eviction protection, at least in terms of the COVID-19 risk requirement.
Under the order, millions of Americans would be protected from evictions, even if the process has already started to kick them out of their homes.
The CDC order says the previous eviction moratorium “provided relief to over one-quarter a material portion of the nation’s roughtly 43 million renters” thanks to the CARES Act’s original 120-day tenant protection, which had then been extended to July 31.
In that same vein of providing relief and protection for Americans harmed by the pandemic’s economic effects, the new order would save more than 300,000 Floridians currently facing a likelihood of eviction, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
As of July 5, 302,605 Florida residents are facing a likely eviction or foreclosure on their apartments or homes. The same survey shows 2,320,018 have an expected loss in employment income, and almost 4.5 million have had difficulty paying for normal household expenses.
How to qualify for eviction protections
The following circumstances make you eligible for eviction protections if you live in any county in the U.S. where there are high rates of transmission of COVID-19, as defined by the CDC.
Under the new order’s protections, evictions for covered persons are blocked. According to the CDC, a covered person is “any tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or a possessory action.”
To prevent their own eviction, a covered person must submit a document to their landlord or other relevant owners that they have, to their best effort, attempted to get government assistance to cover rent or housing costs, and that they’ve earned no more than $99,000 during 2020 or expect to earn no more than $99,000 in 2021.
The order’s design goes hand-in-hand with the current push to expand the application process for Emergency Rental Assistance funds across the U.S., making use of the more than $46 billion set aside to help tenants and homeowners in danger of eviction due to non-payment from becoming homeless.
Eligible persons must also indicate that they were not required to report any income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in 2020, or prove that they received a stimulus check.
Anyone who has not been able to pay the full amount of their rent or make a full housing payment due to “substantial” loss of household income, loss of hours of work or wages, has been laid off, or had extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses may qualify for the new eviction protectin.
Additionally, as long as the individual in question is doing their best to make timely partial rent payments, that are as close to the amount due as they are able to pay, while factoring in other expenses. If eviction would make them homeless or force them to move into close quarters or in a shared living space, they will qualify for eviction protection.
Those who want to learn more about assistance options in their communities for rent, mortgage or utility payments can head online to find programs in their area.
Consequences for COVID evictions during the order
If you are currently infected with COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has or might have the virus, the order will prevent you from getting evicted. However, the order does not prevent evictions completed before the order was issued, which includes Aug. 1 to Aug. 3.
The order is not retroactive, and also sets penalties for landlords and property owners who violate the new protections. Someone who violates the new eviction protection order in an area with high COVID-19 community transmission could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and potentially jail time.
Under the order, someone who violates the protection requirements may be subject to a $100,000 fine, a year in jail, or both if the violation doesn’t end with somebody dying.
However, if the violation results in a death due to COVID-19, the individual or individuals who violate the order could be fined up to $250,000 fine, a year in jail, or both as provided by law.
An organization that violates the order will see fines of no more than $200,000 per event if everybody lives, and $500,000 per event if a death occurs. The U.S. Department of Justice may also initiate criminal proceedings to impose the penalties.