(NEW YORK, NY) December 18, 2020: COVID-19 cases are dramatically increasing in NYC, hospitalizations are at the highest they’ve been since the spring, and the numbers are even worse in many parts of the state, yet the New York eviction moratorium is set to expire at the very beginning of 2021. Recently, Governor Cuomo extended the eviction moratorium on commercial evictions, but has stayed silent on evictions for NYC residents who rely on housing to stay safe, quarantine, and reduce the spread of COVID.
“Is New York leadership valuing businesses and tax base over human life? People’s lives are at stake. If evicted, especially during these brutally freezing months, people will be forced to double up with loved ones or be forced into an already overburdened shelter system, which will surely increase COVID-19 infection rates statewide. What is Governor Cuomo waiting for? The New York Legal Assistance Group is calling on the governor to extend the residential eviction moratorium statewide now,” said Jonathan Fox, Director of NYLAG’s Tenants’ Rights Unit
The pandemic has only exacerbated preexisting disparities, further burdening people experiencing poverty and widening and entrenching the racial wealth gap. If Governor Cuomo does not extend the moratorium, then many tenants, predominantly people of color, including families with children and seniors, could not only lose their homes, but be at a significantly increased risk of catching the virus. And this pandemic has tragically demonstrated repeatedly that these same people most at risk for eviction are oftentimes the same people most at risk of dying of COVID-19 or experiencing serious complications.
Fox continued: “In June 2020, the Governor and others proclaimed ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Now it’s time for Governor Cuomo to show that he really believes that Black lives do matter because many Black people across the state are about to be evicted, facing COVID-19 infection and potentially death if they lose their homes.”
While the moratorium will be helpful in stalling the problem and keeping people in their homes at the moment; the moratorium doesn’t address the root issue of massive job loss and the fact that many New Yorkers are struggling to pay rent. Rent relief—in the form of mass vouchers or some amount of the unpaid rent burden being forgiven—is needed to offset the economic devastation caused by the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Founded in 1990, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) is a leading civil legal services organization combatting economic, racial, and social injustice by advocating for people experiencing poverty or in crisis. Our services include comprehensive, free civil legal services, financial empowerment, impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community partnerships. NYLAG exists because wealth should not determine who has access to justice. We aim to disrupt systemic racism by serving individuals and families whose legal and financial crises are often rooted in racial inequality. NYLAG goes to where the need is, providing services in more than 150 community sites (e.g. courts, hospitals, libraries) and on our Mobile Legal Help Center. During COVID-19, most of our services are virtual to keep our community safe. NYLAG’s staff of 300 impacted the lives of nearly 90,000 people last year.