By Michael E. Kanell – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Lizzie Kane – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Troy Warren for CNT #covid-19
A new eviction moratorium was widely viewed Wednesday as effectively echoing the previous ban, protecting most of the tenants who were shielded under the earlier order.
The new mandate from the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was issued late Tuesday, pegging a moratorium to the level of coronavirus infections. The order applies to all but three of Georgia’s 159 countiesand covers most tenants who said they were unable to pay their rent. .
A resurgent COVID-19 spurred calls for an extension of the previous CDC ban, but Congress recessed without addressing the issue. President Joe Biden then pushed for the CDC to take action — while acknowledging that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision had cast doubt on the move’s legality.
The new ban ends in October.
“It puts us back in the same place we were on July 31,” said Mara Block, senior attorney for Atlanta Legal Aid in Decatur. “So it doesn’t change anything, only that we can breathe again.”
The previous moratorium permitted eviction filings, but it blocked orders to have tenants removed.
The two days since the previous moratorium expired were not long enough to move to evictions, said Lynn Wilson, an attorney for landlords.
“There’s not a lot that has changed and not a lot we expect to change in the next 60 days,” she said.
The most important impact is giving local officials a chance to disburse more of the money the federal government provided for rental assistance, said Matthew Elder, director of the HomeFirst Gwinnett Initiative, a public-private partnership that connects people with services they need.
As of July 20, only about 6% of the $710 million that Georgia and local governments received in federal aid had gone to households, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In Gwinnett, about 2,800 households have applied for rental help and roughly 600 have been approved so far, Elder said. “With more time, we have the opportunity to put millions of dollars back into the hands of landlords and tenants and the community,” he said.
In the hours before the new moratorium was imposed, Fulton County was already seeing heightened eviction activity in its courthouse.
Viraj Parmar, a volunteer lawyer who manages the Housing Court Assistance Center located in the Fulton County Courthouse, said Monday that “this place is bustling with activity, namely landlords filing new cases or moving old ones forward.”
The center now is helping tenants file motions to set aside their eviction orders.
In Cobb County, the court will operate as it did when the previous moratorium was in place, Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Murphy said.
But Dan Pasciuti, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University and an author of recent reports on eviction courts in the state, is skeptical that the new moratorium will offer much support to Georgia renters who were already struggling.
Many courts ignored the original order because it was complex, he said. The new order is more targeted, so it is “really far-fetched” to think court officials will continuously look to see whether their counties qualify, Pasciuti said.
In DeKalb County, a superior court judge last week ordered a ban on all evictions.
Because her order was so extensive, the more limited CDC moratorium did not have any impact in the county, said Andrew Cauthen, spokesman for the government of DeKalb. “I have not heard any talk about our having to do anything because of the CDC’s new order.”
Some tenants were excited to hear about the new moratorium.
Roberta Young, 59, was a medical courier until last year when she was injured on the job. Now, she receives $237.54 per week from occupational insurance.While she believes she’s eligible for unemployment benefits, she said she has never received them. Her landlord served her with an eviction notice in April, saying she owed $4,650.93.
When the moratorium expired July 31, she said her landlord threatened to kick her out before going to court.
“I am dealing with the accident — the pain in my back — and not being able to sleep and my blood pressure going up because of the situation,” Young said. “I don’t want to be out on the street or come home and see my things outside.”
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