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Michigan urges justices to uphold national eviction moratorium


Washington — Michigan is among 22 states urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has blocked landlords from evicting tenants who haven't paid rent during the pandemic.

A federal judge in Washington ruled last month that the CDC lacked the authority to issue the moratorium on evictions, but he stayed his order to allow the government some time to appeal. 

The brief, which was also supported by the District of Columbia, is in response to a request by a landlords' group to vacate the lower court's stay because keeping it in place would "prolong the severe financial burdens borne by landlords under the moratorium for the past nine months." 

The states countered that dissolving the CDC's temporary halt to evictions would "precipitate an unprecedented wave of evictions and threaten substantial harm to individuals, communities and the public health during a continued pandemic." 

"As Michigan continues to vaccinate residents against this deadly virus, it remains imperative efforts enacted to support those crippled financially by the pandemic remain in place," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Monday.

"We signed this brief because I remain committed to protecting this state's residents — ensuring our most vulnerable Michiganders maintain a roof over their heads as the economic recovery gets underway is an important piece of that commitment."

Michigan's state moratorium on evictions expired earlier this year.

The CDC moratorium was first put in place by President Donald Trump in an effort to  avoid mass evictions amid the COVID-19 health emergency at a time when millions of people had lost their jobs or had hours cut back.

The Biden administration extended the national moratorium on evictions through the end of June, but the landlords argue that the need for it is not as urgent.

The Alabama Association of Realtors said in its earlier emergency filing to the high court this month that landlords have been losing over $13 billion a month under the ban over the last nine months, and that the total could hit $200 billion if it remains in force for a full year.

The states including Michigan are asking the justices for leave to file a friend of the court brief, which makes the case that vacating the judge's stay could force "millions of vulnerable individuals from their homes into the streets, crowded shelters or into contact with family or friends within or across state lines." 

"Mass evictions are damaging and destabilizing events in the best of times," the attorneys general wrote. "An unprecedented wave of mass evictions — amid the embryonic stages of the post-pandemic recovery — would be catastrophic." 

The states argue that even if all renters were vaccinated against COVID-19, the temporary pause on evictions would still be necessary because the economic recovery will take time, and many people are unable to afford months of overdue rent. 

In addition to Michigan, the other states that signed onto the brief include Connecticut, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. 

mburke@detroitnews.com