The White House said the order will apply to Americans who qualified for direct payments under the CARES Act, which covered individuals who earn less than $99,000 a year. People will also have to prove that they’ve made efforts to get government assistance for their rental payments, declare that their inability to pay is because of financial hardship due to Covid-19 and that they would likely become homeless if they were evicted.
The move, however, falls short of what some Democrats have called for: setting aside federal dollars for rental assistance. Some distressed borrowers are going to need the help when back rent comes due in January. But providing that kind of money would require an act of Congress, which has so far deadlocked on additional stimulus measures.
“Congress has delegated broad authority to (the Department of Health and Human Services), the Surgeon General and CDC, to take reasonable efforts to combat the spread of communicable diseases, and frankly I think it makes sense for those authorities abroad because we don’t know for any given situation or scenario what steps will be needed to stop the spread,” an administration official told reporters. “The home has been sort of the focal point of people social distancing and building sort of a safe space for themselves over the past few months.”
The official also said people “may end up in overcrowded congregated living facilities or homeless shelters, and that is a potential recipe for a big spread of Covid-19.”
Asked why that authority wasn’t being used to enact a federal mask mandate, officials refused to answer because the question didn’t “have to do with the call at hand.”
“We want to be clear that those who benefit from this assistance, are still obligated to pay any accrued rent or housing payments in accordance with their lease or contract,” a senior administration official said.
CNN’s Katie Lobosco contributed to this report.