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Supreme Court Decision Halts Hamilton County Evictions Again

the supreme court in washington dc
J. Scott Applewhite
U.S. Supreme Court

In a back-and-forth battle between the federal government and Hamilton County courts, the federal government is winning. The Supreme Court voted Tuesday to not lift the eviction moratorium and extended it through the end of July. In the county, however, officials resumed evictions about six weeks ago citing a now-defunct Tennessee court ruling.

"But now the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to keep that stay — to keep the CDC moratorium in place until the end of July," said Nick DiNardo, managing attorney at Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati. "And what the Supreme Court has said is that there would need to be congressional action if that was going to be extended any further."

The eviction moratorium went into effect last March. It prevents people from being evicted if they've lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government paired the moratorium with rental assistance relief, which local municipalities have been charged to dole out.

However, in many cities and counties across the country, including Cincinnati and Hamilton County, there have not been enough resources to dole the money out quickly.

DiNardo and Mark Lawson, President and CEO of the Community Action Agency of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, joined WVXU's Cincinnati Edition Wednesday to talk about the ruling.

Lawson said the agency is responsible for allocating funds to people in need. However, there's a backlog of applicants and people had to be hired to field more phone calls and applications for assistance.

"There's plenty of money for rental assistance available ," Lawson said. "So no one should be evicted for non-payment of rent while they're waiting in line for us."

The federal money also covers court fees and lawyer costs.

"So, landlords are made whole here," Lawson said. "This is good news for landlords and for tenants."

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh voted in favor of keeping the moratorium in place.

Judge Kavanaugh is the only one to officially comment on the issue, saying in a statement, "I agree with the District Court and the applicants that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium … Because the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds, I vote at this time to deny the application to vacate the District Court’s stay of its order."

From September until early December, 221 CDC declarations had been filed and 77 had been accepted, according to Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.