Although President Donald Trump said his executive actions to extend unemployment benefits and halt evictions would “take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it;” attorneys and housing organizations across the state tell a different story.
“Trump’s order has no actual effect,” said Amanda Golob, housing unit managing attorney at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. “Its final section makes it clear that it creates no rights.”
However, Golob is hopeful that “by the President acknowledging that, yes, this is a crisis and that it does disproportionately affect minorities that this will lead to real help and real change.”
According to the executive order:
- “The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of CDC shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from one State or possession into any other State or possession.”
- The Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development shall identify any and all available Federal funds to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners who, as a result of the financial hardships caused by COVID-19, are struggling to meet their monthly rental or mortgage obligations.
- The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development shall take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure resulting from financial hardships caused by COVID-19. Such action may include encouraging and providing assistance to public housing authorities, affordable housing owners, landlords, and recipients of Federal grant funds in minimizing evictions and foreclosures.
Trump signed three presidential memoranda and the above-mentioned executive order, at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Trump says his actions will provide $300 per week in federal unemployment assistance with another $100 a week kicked in by states, pause federal student loan payments and defer payroll taxes.
Golob said the Orleans Parish civil courts were reviewing the executive order on evictions Monday, so it is possible the executive order will lead to eviction delays or even halting evictions until COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
Elzie Alford, the Judicial Administrator for the Baton Rouge City Court, said the Baton Rouge City Courts are reviewing the president’s executive order as well.
“Even at the national level it is unclear on its face, what effect, if any, the order will have on eviction. Whether the order is mandatory, persuasive, or suggestive in whole or in part are all being reviewed at this time,” Alford said.
While the order is being reviewed by the courts, Breonne DeDecker, program director for the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative, believes that the governor needs to take action against the COVID-19-related evictionsl.
“President Trump’s executive order does not offer any tangible benefits or protections for renters — it did not extend the federal moratorium on evictions, and only direct agencies to review resources that could be made available to renters in crisis,” said DeDecker. “With 50% of all renters in Louisiana at risk of eviction in the coming months, Governor John Bel Edwards needs to reinstate the state eviction moratorium immediately to give folks breathing room as Congress negotiates more aid.”
Trump encouraged states to use the money they received directly from the $2 trillion relief bill he signed in March, but states have said they need those funds—and more—for other pandemic responses.
The money in Louisiana’s unemployment insurance trust fund is running low, and according to a July 28 letter Gov. John Bel Edwards sent members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, Louisiana will have to borrow money to keep the trust fund solvent as early as September. And that was before Saturday’s memo requiring Louisiana to provide another $100 per week per Louisianian receiving unemployment.
Eleven percent of Louisiana residents were unable to pay their mortgage in June, the second highest rate in the country. And 1.87 million homeowners across the country are more than 90 days past-due as of June.
Cashauna Hill, executive director of The Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, believes that to prevent further economic disaster, congress must pass further relief.Louisiana alone requires $500 million to keep families housed throughout the pandemic, she said.
“The U.S. government certainly has the resources, and is willing to spend money on issues that it deems a priority,” Hill said. “In a pandemic, the well-being of Americans should be the highest priority. The U.S. Senate needs to support the $100 billion in housing assistance included in the HEROES Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Despite intense negotiations, the parties remain far apart on major policy issues, and they’re far apart on cost, with Democrats seeking a $3 trillion package and Republicans preferring a more “targeted” $1 trillion approach.
On Thursday, Democrats offered to drop the price tag of their package by $1 trillion if Republicans upped theirs by $1 trillion, Pelosi told reporters.
But the administration rejected the offer and prepared its executive order and memos instead.