As New York’s legislature remains out of session and federal representatives push off direct support for working families, I joined with NYC-based advocates to organize a state-wide call for rent relief.
Dozens of Democratic Clubs, grassroots organizations, and Democratic Party leaders submitted a letter (reprinted below) that I helped draft to state and federal elected officials this morning asking for a strong commitment to providing rent relief for New Yorkers who have lost income due to COVID-19.
Forty-five signatories–including fifteen local Democratic clubs, eleven grassroots organizations, and almost two dozen party leaders–joined together in the call for renter protections. The letter was sent to thirty-four elected officials, including Governor Cuomo, U.S. Senator Schumer, and the New York Congressional Delegation.
Multiple rent relief bills have been introduced on the state level; Senator Michael Gianaris (SD-12) and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (AD-65) introduced a bill last month that outlines a 90-day suspension of rent payments for certain residential tenants and small business commercial tenants. Senator Kavanagh (SD-26) and Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz (AD-45) introduced a similar bill providing for a different form of compensation a few days later. It’s still unclear which bill will be brought to the floor, and whether they can be implemented without financial support from the federal government.
Over 200 New York elected officials, tenants & real estate leaders also submitted a letter last week to the New York Congressional delegation requesting $10 billion for COVID-19 Emergency Housing & Rental Assistance in New York State. The most recent stimulus package did not include any rent relief.
(Views expressed here do not reflect those of my employer or any organizational affiliations not described above)
On the Urgent Need for Rent Relief in New York State
April 22, 2020
Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Assembly Speaker Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Members of the U.S. Congress, New York State Senate, and State Assembly,
We are writing on behalf of a coalition of Democratic Clubs, grassroots advocacy groups, and community leaders throughout New York to ask you to join us in supporting and working to secure rent relief for residential tenants and small business commercial tenants who have lost income due to the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The COVID-19 outbreak has been declared an emergency at the national, state, and local levels, as well as a global pandemic. New York State has been put on “PAUSE,” requiring that 100% of the workforce, excluding essential services, stay home, resulting in hundreds of thousands becoming unemployed or losing income.
The “CARES Act,” adopted by the federal government in March, provided many unemployed New Yorkers with a critical – albeit temporary – lifeline to get through these difficult times, but much more needs to be done. For many in New York who have lost income due to COVID-19, existing resources, including those provided in the CARES Act, will not even cover the cost of rent, much less other necessary expenses.
We are asking that you commit to working to provide rent relief to affected tenants, regardless of prior income level or type of rental unit, who have lost substantial income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect that this relief will be permanent, such that no affected tenant will be expected to repay the foregone rent when this crisis passes.
We acknowledge and appreciate that steps have been taken to suspend evictions and delay rent payments on certain properties, but these measures are insufficient to meet the needs of the affected members of our community. We hope that you will work with your partners at other levels of government – who will also be receiving this letter – to cover the fiscal cost of relief, whether it be in the form of a temporary federal reimbursement program (as was done under federal disaster relief law from 1974 to 2002 and particularly after the 9/11 terror attack), a state rent cancellation (with or without federal reimbursement for landlords), or other initiative that satisfies our above-described criteria.
Thank you for your consideration, and for all the work you do to serve our community.