Saturday, February 4, 2023
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Kansas Judge Finds CDC Eviction Moratorium Unenforceable

'If this was something that was working it would be very, very beneficial to us and we would like nothing more than to have rents caught up...'

(Headline USA) A judge in Kansas‘s most populous county reauthorized landlords to evict tenants who are behind on rent in advance of a federal moratorium expiring at the end of the month.

Johnson County Magistrate Judge Daniel Vokins explained this week during a Zoom eviction hearing that he doesn’t think the moratorium that was issued last year by the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is enforceable.

The federal moratorium, implemented as part of a massive bureaucratic power-grab in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, has prevented many tenants from being evicted, although those who failed to pay still owe back rent.

With the policy set to expire, more than 4 million people nationally face being evicted or foreclosed upon in the coming months, census data show.

It comes as many who received exceedingly generous unemployment benefits during lockdowns to entice them to stay home now remain reluctant to reenter the job market, and massive new government spending proposals for entitlement programs threaten to send inflation skyrocketing.

Making matters worse, the tens of billions of dollars in federal emergency rental assistance that was supposed to solve the problem has not reached most tenants.

Ironically, the policies and rhetoric that Democrats used to install President Joe Biden into office and regain control of the Senate are now coming back to bite the party in power.

Both the White House and Congress have seen their approval ratings plummet as reality—and, with it, buyer’s remorse—sets in.

“We thought 2021 was going to be better and it is turning out to be just as bad,” said Denise Wall, 31, of Shawnee, who applied for rental aid in March but is still trying to find out whether she qualifies.

She lost her job as a cook as the pandemic started and was out of work for nearly a year before beginning another job in April as a medical courier, picking up and delivering tests. Vokins set her case for trial on July 2.

Wall echoed the outrage that supporters of former president Donald Trump felt as leftist media and politicians denied the responsibility that China faced in unleashing the virus on the world, instead baselessly blaming the president for not doing more to address it.

“This wasn’t anything any of us asked for,” she said.

Vokins noted in moving forward on evictions that a federal judge last month found the CDC exceeded its authority when it imposed the moratorium last year. He said the ruling means that “any current or future moratorium order issued by the CDC is not valid.”

Kansas also had its own eviction moratorium, but it expired at the end of last month. Vokins said that means that “the eviction laws prior to the pandemic in March 2020 is the current law today.”

But Casey Johnson, an attorney for Kansas Legal Services, said Volkins’s justification for rejecting the CDC order is “not valid” because it was issued in the 6th Circuit and Kansas is in the 10th Circuit.

Vokins encouraged renters and landlords to work together to obtain emergency rental funds but would only agree to pause court proceeding so they could do so if both sides agreed to the delay.

Luke Demaree, an attorney for Fox Run Apartments, said that apartment staff is in constant contact with the agency but can’t get details on who is approved for emergency federal funding—or when to expect the money.

“If this was something that was working it would be very, very beneficial to us and we would like nothing more than to have rents caught up,” he said. “We would like nothing more than that, but at the same time, that is not what we see happening.”

Karen Nations, who also represented landlords at the hearing, said the moratorium has been difficult.

“Landlords have been struggling to pay their bills, and people have taken advantage of the moratorium,” she said, adding that some who can afford to pay their rent aren’t because of the moratorium. “It is a very tricky balancing act to get the mortgage paid if you’re not getting your rent.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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