Last week, a group of more than 200 state senators, Assembly members, City Council representatives, county executives and other elected officials penned a letter to senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and members of the New York Congressional delegation. Specifically, the group is asking for $10 billion in federal funds for New York.
In the letter, the lawmakers said the opportunity to obtain and stay in permanent housing “must be a primary focus of our response” during the pandemic. They added that it’s equally urgent to support people who are at risk of displacement by investing in existing housing through rental assistance.
Though New York implemented “stop-gap measures” like a three-month moratorium on evictions, lawmakers warned that without federal funding, there will be a “dramatic and dangerous increase” in homelessness.
“Rental assistance is critical to ensuring that vulnerable New Yorkers are not disproportionately affected by the current lockdown,” said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, who chairs the Assembly’s Social Services Committee. “People who are homeless and housing insecure are being exposed to COVID-19 at significantly higher rates, which has serious implications on their ability to weather this crisis and recover both physically and financially.”
State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who chairs the State Senate’s Housing Committee, said hundreds of thousands of residents face the prospect of being severely burdened by rent they cannot pay and losing their homes.
Along with Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, Kavanagh has introduced state legislation to provide emergency rental assistance vouchers to help keep New Yorkers who have lost jobs or income due to the pandemic from losing their homes.
If the state passes the voucher program, the government would pay for rent that exceeds 30 percent of an individual’s or family’s current monthly adjusted income up to 250 percent of the fair market rate for the area.
State lawmakers said the legislation has 27 co-sponsors in the State Senate and 18 in the Assembly, as well as support from tenants groups and landlords.
“As we work to maintain the suffering this deadly pandemic is causing, we must devote funds to protecting tenants and stabilizing the housing market,” Kavanagh said. “Our legislation offers a clear path to help tenants remain in their homes and provide landlords with sufficient funds to pay their mortgages, maintenance costs and property taxes.”
North Brooklyn Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said in a statement that investing in emergency COVID-19 housing assistance will help bring both financial stability and peace of mind.
“No one should live in fear of future financial repercussions through no fault of their own due to the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “If corporations can get a bailout, so can the people.”
Councilman Robert Cornegy, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, added that $10 billion in rental assistance can ensure that families have the housing security they deserve.
“The COVID-19 pandemic should not result in anxiety and fear that homelessness, displacement and housing insecurity accompany the threat of illness,” he said. “Our shared communities must remain whole in the wake of this pandemic.”