Monday night the Four Freedoms Democratic Club hosted a virtual meeting I helped organize that featured presentations by Mount Sinai Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Dana Mazo on the public health measures that we should be taking to contain the COVID-19 virus, as well as from Congress Member Carolyn Maloney and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright on the State and federal responses. You can watch the video of the meeting here.
One issue that came up repeatedly was the fear many people have that the disruptions to the economy caused by the virus will make it impossible for many New Yorkers to pay their rent. Both the Assembly Member and Congress Member brought up the extraordinary measures being taken to help – including a 90-day moratorium on evictions imposed by Governor Cuomo and federal requirements that some banks allow borrowers to defer mortgage payments without penalty – but received push back from Club members (including me) that delaying payments would not be enough.
Earlier this morning the Club’s executive board voted to follow up by adopting a resolution authored by UES/RI State Democratic Committee Member Lauren Trapanotto urging our State and federal elected officials to support Senate bill S8125 or a similar measure designed to provide relief. I’ve included the text of the resolution below. SDC Member Trapanotto has been coordinating aggressive outreach to our district’s elected officials on the subject, and you can join her in contacting Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, Senator Liz Krueger, Senator José M. Serrano, and Congress Member Carolyn Maloney to express your support for this and similar measures (hyperlinks link to their respective emails).
Less urgently but even more importantly, the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the deadly harm that the inequities in our housing economy has caused. You may have heard me talk over the past few months about the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine the Obama-era “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rules. You can read the full text of the rules change here; they’re somewhat technical, but basically the Obama Administration required cities and towns to demonstrate concrete progress in eliminating the enduring legacy of redlining and reforming land use rules to build new affordable housing as conditions of receiving federal funds. The Trump Administration wants to undo that and impose much weaker forms of accountability. The public comment period for the Trump version of the rule ended last Friday, but you can still contact Congress about making the Obama-era rules permanent and check out the Fight for Housing Justice campaign’s resources on the subject.
(Views expressed here do not reflect those of my employer or any organizational affiliations not described above)
To support New York State Senate Bill S8125/Assembly Bill A10224, to suspend rent payments and certain mortgage payments for certain residential tenants and small business commercial tenants for ninety days in response to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
WHEREAS the COVID-19 outbreak has been declared a National Emergency by the Federal Government, a State of Emergency by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Local State of Emergency by Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and a pandemic by the World Health Organization;
WHEREAS, in an effort to “flatten the curve,” Governor Cuomo has shut down Broadway, closed schools, and closed restaurants and bars, excluding delivery and pick up, and has since this week put New York State on “pause”, demanding that 100% of the workforce, excluding essential services, stay home, which has resulted in thousands of now unemployed workers losing their income;
WHEREAS for many people who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, the cost of rent alone would barely be covered by unemployment insurance, leaving thousands of people unable to pay bills or purchase necessities;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Four Freedoms Democratic Club calls for our State to offer rent relief to any renter, regardless of prior income level or type of rental unit, who has lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where any such renter shall have all rent payments suspended for ninety days and shall never be required to pay any rent waived during this time period, nor shall they be subject to any fees, including late fees, during this time period.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Four Freedoms Democratic Club supports New York State Senate Bill S8125/Assembly Bill A10224 to suspend rent payments and certain mortgage payments for certain residential tenants and small business commercial tenants for ninety days in response to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), or a similar bill so long as it meets the aforementioned requirement of being available to any and all renters who lose their job during the pandemic.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if there are questions as to the constitutionality of S8125/A10224 imposing an uncompensated mandate on private interests, the Four Freedoms Democratic Club supports the use of State, local, or federal funds as compensation so that the burden of back payments does not fall on renters, and does not believe the present circumstances warrant covetousness by the government.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that many workers not directly impacted by the public health measures will nevertheless be adversely affected by the economic fallout of COVID-19 and the Four Freedoms Democratic Club supports additional measures to provide similar relief to them.