Tenants still have some protections as North Carolina eviction moratorium nears end

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.

Interactive Map





3 p.m.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the CDC is leaving it up to local officials to set guidelines for mask-wearing as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus surges in areas with low vaccination rates.

Walensky said Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show that "we've always said that local policymakers need to make policies for their local environment," but added CDC guidelines broadly indicate those who are vaccinated don't need to wear masks.

Health officials in Los Angeles County are recommending people wear masks indoors in public places regardless of their vaccination status.

Separately, the World Health Organization has reiterated its longstanding recommendation that everyone wear masks to lessen the spread of the coronavirus.

Walensky told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday the "context in which the WHO is making recommendations is very different than us here in the United States" since less than 15% of the world is vaccinated.

As for the recommendation by officials in Los Angeles County, Walensky said "we are still seeing an uptick in cases in areas of low vaccination and in that situation, we are suggesting that policies be made at the local level."

2 p.m.
More than 1,500 Head Start programs for children around the country will get a funding boost through President Joe Biden's coronavirus relief bill.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday it is awarding $1 billion approved by Congress under Biden's American Rescue Plan.

The money also can be used to help Head Start staffers and their families get vaccinated, although the vaccines are free. For some programs starting this summer, the federal funds will arrive just in time.

Head Start provides preschool and early learning services to more than 1 million children from low-income families through locally operated centers. The program has longstanding bipartisan political support.

11:55 a.m.

North Carolina health officials are reporting 208 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday with a 2.7% positive test rate.

There are 393 hospitalized COVID-19 patients throughout the state, up nine from Tuesday.

Throughout North Carolina, 13 more people have died from the virus.

NCDHHS data shows 56% of North Carolina adults have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 53% of adults are now fully vaccinated.

4:45 a.m.
Six North Carolina Republican officials voted on Tuesday to end statewide eviction protections for renters starting Thursday, rejecting Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's request to extend the state's eviction moratorium by one month.

Cooper's administration warns the move by Republicans is likely to inject further chaos and confusion for landlords and tenants. Critics note North Carolina's policies will cease to align with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently extended its national eviction moratorium through July 31.

Regardless, eligible North Carolina renters will be able to remain in their homes through the end of July.

"The governor doesn't have to do anything for the CDC order to continue applying to North Carolinians," said Sean Driscoll, a spokesperson for Legal Aid of North Carolina. "There will not be mass evictions until Aug. 1 because the CDC order will still be in place and apply."

The nonprofit law firm assists low-income renters facing the threat of eviction.

Tuesday's decision from the North Carolina Council of State, which was split along party lines, is likely to increase the number of evictions, particularly for tenants with less income, less understanding of how to file for federal evictions protections and a lack of awareness of state and local rental relief programs.

Starting Thursday, landlords will no longer be required to give tenants they are seeking to evict a copy of a form from the CDC's website informing them of their right not to be evicted solely because of nonpayment of rent. North Carolinians can still be evicted for reasons unrelated to nonpayment of rent, such as property destruction.

North Carolina's eviction protections are set to expire on Wednesday. For months, they have strengthened the CDC moratorium by requiring landlords to give the CDC form to the tenants they are seeking to evict.

It will also soon be easier for property owners to evict people who may still be navigating through the Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions Program (HOPE) process. The program helps residents in 88 smaller counties in the state pay their rent or utility bills. Twelve larger counties manage similar assistance programs. Republicans and Democrats alike want more people to take advantage of the $1.3 billion in rent and utility payment assistance that remains largely unused.

"It's disappointing to see Council of State members revoke eviction protections for people still struggling to stay in their homes," Cooper said in a statement. "Many North Carolinians still need help and we will work to make sure landlords abide by the CDC evictions moratorium and that tenants can access rent and utility assistance from counties and the state HOPE program."

Many Republicans and landlord advocacy groups believe the moratorium has been on the books for too long. They argue the original intent of the eviction moratorium was to limit the spread of COVID-19. With vaccines now widely available, they find the moratorium unnecessary.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell supported Cooper's original order in May 2020 to halt evictions but has since opposed efforts to extend the statewide moratorium. He sees a larger problem with housing supply and affordability fueled by lower vacancy rates.

"This policy was originally an act of COVID and it became an act of the state, and I think it was hampering and preventing people from being able to rent," Folwell said in an interview.

He noted other states have ended their eviction moratoriums. He called Tuesday's vote to end the state moratorium directive "one step towards getting back to normalcy."

The North Carolina Association of Realtors had urged Cooper to let the statewide moratorium order expire and was pleased Republican members of the Council of State moved to end it.

"It is time to allow housing providers to participate in the economic recovery that has been afforded to so many other struggling industries," the group said in a statement.

North Carolinians facing the threat of eviction and unsure of whether they can remain in their homes through July 31 can call 800-569-4287 to seek housing counseling. To qualify for federal eviction protections, tenants must have made less than $99,000 in 2020 or expect to earn less than that amount this year. The income threshold for those who file their taxes jointly is $198,000. Tenants can also qualify to remain in their homes if they've received a stimulus check or not been required to report income to the Internal Revenue Service.

Additionally, those seeking eviction protection must verify they cannot pay their full rent or make a full housing payment because their household income has gone down substantially, they've been laid off from work, their work hours or wages have been cut or they have extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.

TUESDAY
4:50 p.m.
The North Carolina evictions moratorium will end July 1.

Gov. Cooper said in a statement that the Republican members of the Council of State rejected a one-month extension.

The Biden administration this week extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month to help tenants who are unable to make rent payments during the coronavirus pandemic.

EMBED More News Videos

North Carolina evictions moratorium to end July 1. Joel Brown reports.



"It's disappointing to see Council of State Members revoke eviction protections for people still struggling to stay in their homes," said Governor Cooper. "Many North Carolinians still need help and we will work to make sure landlords abide by the CDC evictions moratorium and that tenants can access rent and utility assistance from counties and the state HOPE program."

Attorney General Josh Stein, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, and State Auditor Beth Wood supported an extension. Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Commissioner of Labor Josh Dobson, Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt opposed extending the moratorium.

Folwell praised the action, saying that by lifting the eviction moratorium more housing might become available. He said property owners will have greater certainty that their expenses will be met through timely rent payments.

"What was originally an act of COVID now exists solely as an act of the state," he said. "Now, property owners can work with tenants on equitable solutions that are unique to each situation without a 'one-sizes-fits-all' government-mandated order. In turn, property owners - especially small property owners - will feel more confident in making more housing available because they know they have a much higher probability of recouping their costs for mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance and repairs."

1:15 p.m.
274 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 2.9%.

384 are currently hospitalized in North Carolina with COVID-19.

52% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

4 additional deaths have been reported since Monday.

11:45 a.m.
Moderna on Tuesday released preliminary data indicating its vaccine is likely to hold up against several variants of concern, including the Delta variant, which is predicted to become the dominant variant in the United States.

The data, which has not yet been peer reviewed, is preliminary but promising.

In the experiments, scientists took blood samples from people who have already been vaccinated and tested it against variants in a laboratory. This type of experiment can offer a rough sense of whether the vaccine will work against a new variant.

The Moderna vaccine appeared to work against all variants.

10 a.m.
The Biden administration this week extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month to help tenants who are unable to make rent payments during the coronavirus pandemic.

EXPLAINER: The latest on evictions and the HOPE program in NC

Governor Cooper's office said he asked on Monday for the necessary concurrence from the Council of State to extend the evictions moratorium order.

Council of State members have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to consider extending the state evictions moratorium or revoke the protections, Cooper's office said.

"The CDC has extended its evictions moratorium through July and consistent with the Emergency Management Act, the Council of State has been asked to concur by the end of the day today on an extension of the state moratorium," said Ford Porter, a spokesperson for Governor Cooper, in a statement.

6:45 a.m.
The science is still unclear if and how often people will need booster shots to stay protected from COVID-19.

However, a new study published Monday in Nature indicates the COVID-19 vaccines could offer long-term protection.

The researchers, who are from Washington University in Saint Louis, found that people who got two doses of the Pfizer vaccine produced a type of immune cell called a "B-cell," which is expected to keep pumping out protection for years.

Early research also suggests people who had COVID-19 and then later got vaccinated may have an even stronger and more broad immune response.
Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.