Renters are breathing a sigh of relief as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention extended the nationwide eviction moratorium through Oct. 3 after it previously expired on July 31. The extension couldn’t come at a better time as more than 11 million Americans are reportedly behind on their rent.
The CDC says the eviction moratorium will allow additional time for rent relief to reach renters and increase vaccination rates. The agency points out that the moratorium will facilitate self-isolation and self-quarantine by people who become ill or who are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 by keeping people out of congregate settings and in their own homes.
“The emergence of the Delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads.”
According to a New York University study, thousands of renters in New York City have debts over $10,000. In total, 1.3 million tenants in New York State are behind on rent. Under the moratorium, tenants are still obligated to pay rent but cannot be sued by landlords for nonpayment or evicted.
Many renters are relying on the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which provides eligible households with rental assistance of up to 12 months of past-due rent, and for some households, up to 3 months for future rent. ERAP can also provide assistance for up to 12 months of overdue gas and electric bills.
ERAP payments are issued directly to the landlord or utility provider and landlords can submit on behalf of tenants. If a landlord refuses to provide information to complete a tenant’s application, or refuses to accept funds, the tenant will be provided with an eligibility letter that they can provide to the court if their landlord does attempt to evict them.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called on the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to get more than $2 billion in ERAP funds given to New York State for tenants. The agency said it already distributed some funds. The State Assembly is planning a hearing on the distribution of the ERAP funds.
With Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing his resignation amid a sexual harassment scandal, advocates are calling on incoming interim govenor Kathy Hochul to extend the eviction moratorium even longer.
On Tuesday, tenant advocates and state legislators rallied in Lower Manhattan to call for immediate COVID rent relief. The rally took place before Cuomo resigned.
The group is calling for the state legislature to return to session to extend the eviction moratorium and demand that the governor’s office distribute rent relief funds to tenants and landlords. They also want an extension of the state’s eviction moratorium until June 2022.
“Andrew Cuomo harmed and wronged countless New Yorkers across the state, especially tenants in low-income communities of color,” said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change. “Kathy Hochul must move aggressively to chart a new and better course for New York. She should immediately extend the eviction moratorium that has saved many thousands of lives over the past year, and fast-track COVID rent relief funds that Cuomo failed to put in the hands of New Yorkers struggling for survival.”
In Queens, State Sen. James Sanders Jr. partnered with Neighborhood Housing of Jamaica on Tuesday to host the first weekly, virtual, one-on-one clinic to help small landlords and tenants as the post-COVID eviction moratorium is about to come to an end.
“There are going to be a whole lot of people facing a world of pain,” Sanders said. “It is our job as leaders in government to take the steps necessary to help our constituents and be stewards of good will. This is something that is so serious and affects so many people. We are talking about thousands of people potentially becoming homeless.”
Sanders added that courts will be overloaded with landlords who cannot pay their mortgages due to non-paying tenants and tenants who cannot pay their rent due to job loss and other COVID-related circumstances.
Good Shepherd Services is hosting a series of pop-up events to help tenants behind on their rent apply for ERAP. The pop-up events will take place on Aug. 14 and Aug. 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Prince Joshua Avitto Community Center (876 Schenck Avenue, Brooklyn).
“We know how important it is for families to remain in their homes, especially after all the challenges they faced in the wake of COVID-19,” said Michelle Yanche, executive director of Good Shepherd Services. “While our work in homeless prevention started long before the pandemic, ERAP is important to addressing the housing insecurity caused by COVID-19, and we want to make sure those who require assistance can access it.”