Cuomo extends moratorium on rental evictions in N.Y. through August amid coronavirus crisis

Gov. Cuomo seen during a COVID-19 briefing.
Gov. Cuomo seen during a COVID-19 briefing.(STEFANI REYNOLDS/Getty Images)

Gov. Cuomo on Thursday extended a statewide moratorium on evictions through the end of August and promised that New Yorkers won’t get booted from their homes or businesses for being unable to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

The moratorium, which was set to expire June 20, will now remain in effect until Aug. 20, Cuomo said during a briefing in Westchester County.

Still, the governor did not go as far as to cancel rent outright, which progressives have increasingly called on him to do as the virus continues to curtail people’s ability to make a living.

“I hope it gives families a deep breath. Nothing can happen until Aug. 20,” Cuomo said, noting that the moratorium covers both commercial and residential tenants. “I understand the anxiety, I understand the stress, but let’s remember who we are and what we’re all about and what principles matter to us.”

Picking up on the left-wing push for a rent cancellation, Cuomo said he will reassess the situation again once Aug. 20 comes around.

“What’s going to happen on Aug. 20? I can’t tell you,” he said. “Whatever happens, we’ll handle it.”

In addition to the eviction moratorium, Cuomo said he will sign orders banning landlords from applying late fees during the pandemic and allowing tenants to use their security deposits to cover rent.

Cuomo’s latest rent relief pitch comes as housing activists and progressive Democrats are pressing for a complete pause on rent collection.

Dozens of New Yorkers drove up Second Avenue in Manhattan on May 1 displaying signs emblazoned with the #CancelRent hashtag. The same hashtag has trended on social media across the country over the past few days, as Americans struggle to make ends meet amid the economy-crushing pandemic.

The #CancelRent movement has also picked up support on Capitol Hill.

Queens-Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the hardest-hit district in the country, spearheaded a push earlier this week for a nationwide cancellation of rent and mortgage payments, proposing in a letter to Senate and House leadership that such a provision be tucked into the next coronavirus stimulus package.

Some of Ocasio-Cortez’s like-minded politicians in New York said Cuomo’s Thursday announcement fell short.

“Eviction moratorium is a band-aid on a gaping economic wound. We need real relief for people fast. #CancelRent,” tweeted state Sen. Mike Gianaris, who has proposed a measure that would offer 90 days of rent forgiveness to residential and commercial tenants if they lose work or are forced to close because of the pandemic.

Beyond the contentious rent issue, Cuomo reported during his briefing that 231 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 overnight, meaning the tragic daily toll has remained effectively flat over the past three days.

Nearly 20,000 people in the state have now died from the virus.

Hospitalizations and intubations, meanwhile, continue to trend downward, Cuomo said.

In another glimmer of good news, Cuomo said a new study shows healthcare workers have lower rates of COVID-19 infections than the general population — a finding that suggests widespread usage of personal protective equipment like face masks is proving effective in fighting the virus.

Still, Cuomo stressed that, unlike some other states, New York won’t rush to reopen the economy across the board.

Once his stay-at-home order expires on May 15, some regions of New York, particularly upstate, will be able to open certain sectors of their economies.

But New York City, Long Island and other areas downstate will likely need a bit longer, Cuomo reiterated.

“To me it’s never been a question of whether or not we reopen, it’s not reopen or not reopen, you have to reopen. You don’t have a choice. It’s how you reopen," he said.

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