US is seeking to put off judge’s order blocking eviction moratorium

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A rally in support of efforts to block evictions for up to a year was held outside the State House in November 2020.
A rally in support of efforts to block evictions for up to a year was held outside the State House in November 2020. Matthew J Lee/Globe Staff/File 2020

A federal judge’s decision blocking a nationwide moratorium on evictions should be put off while it’s appealed because the ruling threatens to worsen the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. government said.

The Department of Health and Human Services sought an emergency pause late Wednesday on the ruling by a federal judge in Washington.

“Undisputed scientific evidence shows that evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half a million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone,” government lawyers wrote in a filing in Washington federal court. “Every court to consider the question has held that landlords suffer no irreparable injury as a result of the moratorium.”

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US District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled earlier Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority by issuing a broad moratorium on evictions across all rental properties. Landlords groups welcomed the decision.

Friedrich’s ruling was a setback to efforts by President Joe Biden to help tenants and lessen the financial damage caused by the pandemic. The CDC moratorium, first enacted by President Donald Trump and later extended by Biden, was designed to prevent mass evictions in the face of a public health emergency that has seen millions of Americans lose their jobs and fall deep into debt.

Friedrich ruled on a suit by the Alabama Association of Realtors and a group of real estate agents in Georgia.

Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project, said the United States should move quickly to overturn the ruling or risk “mass evictions just as we seem to be on the verge of reaching herd immunity in the US.”

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