Supreme Court rules to proceed with evictions, Story County will continue assistance for tenants and landlords


“More than 5 million renters say they have lost employment income and expect to be evicted soon,” the CBPP reported. “Struggling renters are disproportionately households with children and people of color, particularly people who are Black or Latino.”

Katherine Kealey

Outlasting federal efforts to halt evictions, the City of Ames and Story County continue to offer aid to low-income households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through mortgage, rent and utilities assistance programs. 

In an attempt to do Congress’ job, the Biden administration failed in final efforts to extend the federal eviction moratorium, but there are still alternative services available on the local level.

The Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus offers funds for up to six months of mortgages, rent or utilities. The assistance began in April 2020 and has extended since the surge of the delta variant. 

Applicants are processed on a first-come, first-served basis, and eligibility is partially based on an applicant’s liquid assets for rent and/or utility and their gross household income. Qualifications also include experiencing loss of income directly due to COVID-19, and applicants must reside within city limits.

Housing Coordinator for the City of Ames, Vanessa Baker-Latimer, said the City has teamed up with other community organizations like Story County Community Services to find aid for those who live outside of Ames.

“If they (Story County Community Services) had clients who were in Ames they would send them to me and if I had clients in the county I would send them to them so that we could stretch our dollars more,” Baker-Latimer said.

Assistance applicants receive is grant-based, meaning they do not need to pay back the funds for the six months of missed rent. Baker-Latimer said many tenants seeking assistance were already three months behind rent, so the six months of aid is not only to catch them up but bring tenants back on their feet.

“So we tried to maximize everybody giving up to six months worth of rent, so they would have room to go out and do what they needed to do after, and not worry about their rent for the next couple of months if they needed to find a new job, find another job or find an additional job,” Baker-Latimer said. 

The City of Ames also serves as a bridge between local landlords and tenants, informing both parties there was a moratorium in place to determine how to navigate the process. Baker-Latimer said the program has been beneficial to those who have taken advantage of it.

To date, the City of Ames has assisted approximately 170 households. Of those, 157 were with rent and utility relief assistance, and 13 were with mortgages and utility.

The Story County Board of Supervisors approved an additional $200,000 for the county assistance program, which will be distributed to local housing organizations to then allocate to families in need. 

According to Vice-Chair of the Story County Board of Supervisors Latifah Faisal, Good Neighbor Inc. is one of the partner agencies to aid in the distribution process. Between Aug. 1-31, Good Neighbor Inc. has assisted 29 households with a total of 85 household members. Good Neighbor Inc. has utilized the allotted $25,000 and has submitted for another $25,000. The Bridge Home also received the initial $25,000 but too early for the County Board of Supervisors to have a report on the funds.

“We knew there was an immediate need and it is important to us to ensure that we support safety nets for some of our most vulnerable or most impacted community members,” Faisal said in an email response.

What is happening at the federal level 

The U.S. Supreme Court rules against the Center for Disease Control and Prevention seeking to prolong the moratorium.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued the moratorium Sept. 4, 2020, and it is expected to expire Dec. 31, 2021. This halt followed the moratorium included in the CARES Act, which began March 27, 2020, and expired July 24, 2020. 

The ban was originally established to hold evictions due to high unemployment and the spread of COVID-19. Now, tenants must pay rent due for Aug. 1 in addition to the months they did not pay during the pandemic. Some federal agencies have extended their moratoriums until Sept. 10. 

The CDC’s imposed rule is based on a decade-old statute that authorizes fumigation and pest extermination. The Public Health Service Act also establishes the federal government’s responsibility to prevent the transmission of communicable diseases through quarantine. 

The majority opinion found the CDC’s extensions were an overreach of authority and ignored property ownership rights of landlords.

The Court’s rejection was an expected outcome after the Supremes forewarned the extension would require new legislation from Congress.

Instead, the final judgment fell on the 6-3 ruling following the Biden administration’s endmost effort to recycle the September 2020 enactment as the pandemic persists and millions of Americans are behind in rent.

Dirk Deam, teaching professor for the political science department, said this discussion should take place in Congress, where policymaking is supposed to take place.

“In the current context of our polarized deadlocked legislative branch, where Congress is largely unable to function, more and more things fall to the executive branch or to the executive agencies to try through their limited powers that make rules that make public policy,” Deam said. “And that is not a good way to do it.”

The CDC sought to extend the moratorium as delta variant cases of COVID-19 increase across the country. While some feel the pandemic is still underway, others think the country has begun to return to some sense of normalcy; therefore, the moratorium isn’t necessary. 

While Congress has chosen to remain blind and deaf on the matter, the CDC attempts to stretch the little authority they have for solutions.

“My position is executive agencies should not be trying to substitute for Congress,” Deam said. “I understand why they do under the present circumstances, and that is unfortunate. I think if the American people are disgusted in the way I am, the thing to do is to change Congress so that it is able to pass laws. The reason it should be in Congress is that then we can have a debate about it.”