By Robert Pozarycki
Tens of thousands of New York tenants in danger of being thrown out of their homes for back rent got yet another reprieve from Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo signed an executive order extending the eviction moratorium enacted back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That order officially expired at midnight on Aug. 5; Cuomo’s extension keeps it alive through Sept. 4.
During a conference call with reporters Thursday, however, Cuomo and Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa explained that the order essentially reinforces legislation enacted earlier this year forbidding any evictions related to economic hardship suffered during the pandemic.
Cuomo went as far to state that there would be “no evictions as long as we’re in this epidemic,” and until such time as the governor formally declares that the health crisis has ended.
“As we stand here today, regardless of any executive order, nobody can be evicted for any financial hardship during the period of the COVID crisis,” DeRosa noted.
More than 14,000 rental households in New York City alone are at risk of losing their homes, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Many of them lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic; de Blasio noted that 1.3 million New Yorkers have filed for unemployment insurance since the pandemic began back in March.
The mayor said too many New York tenants fell behind on their rent payments due to these circumstances, and they shouldn’t lose their homes as a result.
“It’s not their fault,” de Blasio said. “They didn’t ask for a global pandemic. But if you don’t have a paycheck, what are you going to do? … If you don’t have a source of income, how the hell are you gonna pay the rent?”
For months, advocates across New York City have called upon government to “cancel rent” and/or provide financial relief to tenants in arrears and in danger of eviction. The city has offered some tenants rental grants to help make their payments, but aside from an extended eviction moratorium, a long-term solution to the rent crisis has yet to be enacted.
Extending the eviction ban is only half of the solution, the mayor acknowledged. He again called upon Congress and the White House to include robust rental assistance in a new COVID-19 economic relief package — though he expressed pessimism over the lack of progress thus far.
“The best solution resides in Washington, DC — rental assistance for everyone who’s lost their job so they can keep their home, and landlords have the money to keep up their buildings,” de Blasio said. “But we have such a broken situation in Washington right now.”
The mayor also called upon the state government to enact legislation enabling landlords to start payment plan models so tenants can agree to pay off their back rent over time without losing their home. He also urged any New Yorker facing possible eviction proceedings to call 311 for assistance.