April 30, 2020

MinKwon Center Supports Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris’ Bill to Suspend Rent and Mortgage Payments due to the Economic Impact of COVID-19

Albany, NY — on March 23rd, 2020, Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, representing New York’s 12th State Senate district, sponsored bill S8125A that addresses economic impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by canceling rent and mortgage payments to certain tenants, commercial renters, and homeowners for 90 days. The accompanying Assembly version of the bill, A10224A, was sponsored by Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, representing New York’s 65th district. New York City elected officials, including Speaker of City Council Corey Johnson and City Comptroller Scott Stringer, came out in support of S8125A and A10224A, affirming their stance that there should be a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments for impacted residents.


MinKwon Center for Community Action strongly supports the cancelation of rent and mortgage payments of New Yorkers whose lives have been upended by the pandemic. COVID-19 has had devastating effects on our community, with our most vulnerable community members passing away, and countless others have lost their sole source of income and are unable to seek alternative work due to the “New York State on PAUSE” Executive Order by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. While the organization lauds efforts by our government officials to prevent sources of outbreak by enforcing strict social distancing measures, the government must also ensure that it addresses the consequential byproduct of such measures, including the loss of income for many who work in the service and informal economy sectors.


The social and economic impact of the pandemic on Flushing residents are clear. There has been a high uptick in the demand for the food pantry at La Jornada. MinKwon Center is inundated with calls from community members who have been unable to apply for New York State unemployment benefits due to a multitude of reasons: immigration status, work status, language barriers, lack of internet and smarter devices including a computer, and the fact that many New Yorkers are unable to access or reach the New York Department of Labor by phone due to the strain caused by an unprecedented influx of applications.


MinKwon Center does not believe that a moratorium on evictions or a suspension of rent payable upon securing gainful employment is an adequate relief to our community. Under the current moratorium, although landlords may not evict tenants within the 90-day period, the unpaid rent would be due at the end of the period, at which time the landlord may decide to evict tenants who are unable to pay. This is not a viable solution to the crisis tenants face; if tenants are unable to pay their rent for the 90-day period due to the loss of income, how could they be expected to pay three months’ worth of back rent upon regaining employment, when their income must also be spent on rent payments currently due?


Because working-class New Yorkers who are employed in restaurants, bars, salons, and other service sector industries are paid hourly wages and tips with little to no employee benefits, they will not recuperate the income lost during the 90-day period after the quarantine is lifted. As such, the relief that the government should provide is the cancellation of rent payments for those who are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and the MinKwon Center strongly urges other elected officials, including Governor Cuomo, to come out in support of this bill.

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