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We Need to Cancel Rent During the Coronavirus Pandemic: State Sen. Mike Gianaris

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Op-ed: April 1, 2020 By State Sen. Mike Gianaris

America is facing an unprecedented public health crisis which will soon become an unprecedented economic and housing crisis.

With rents due April 1 and jobless claims expected to pass 3.5 million this week, we could see millions evicted from apartments, homes foreclosed upon, and small businesses permanently shuttered – leaving even more people out of work.

New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis and we are taking serious measures to stem the bleeding. Governor Andrew Cuomo has done a commendable job managing this crisis, including by issuing an executive order halting evictions and foreclosures for 90 days.

But this isn’t enough – many New Yorkers live paycheck to paycheck and do not have three months of back rent saved.

New legislation I introduced last week would suspend and forgive rent payments for residential and small business tenants for 90 days, as well as provide some relief for small property owners. This has received an outpouring of support, nearly crashing the State Senate website over the weekend.

According to Data for Progress’ surveys conducted with The Justice Collaborative, suspend and forgive programs enjoy broad public support: 76% of poll respondents indicated support for some version of suspending and forgiving rents for residential tenants. Few policies receive this level of public support: 83% of Democrats are behind it, and even 72% of Republicans are in support.

Data for Progress

Data for Progress puts critical data behind suspending and forgiving rent, but let me put a human face on it. My office has had its voicemail filled by people telling their own stories. A freelance arts teacher, who does not receive sick leave or traditional unemployment, let me know that with all her classes now cancelled she has no income and cannot pay her bills. Another caller, a hair salon owner, lost all their personal and business income. They fear losing both their apartment and salon – and their livelihood for years to come.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris

There is a moral imperative to #CancelRent. Thousands, if not millions, of New Yorkers are on the financial brink. We often say many New Yorkers are just a paycheck away from poverty. The time has come where the paychecks have stopped coming. We need to take urgent and critical action now to suspend and forgive rents for people who are in need of assistance during the pandemic.

What can we do? I am working to garner support in the legislature to pass my bill – and I am excited to have nearly two dozen Senate cosponsors of the bill and support in the Assembly. The Governor could also, if he so chooses, enact such a policy through executive order. We need people to keep being active voices – call your elected officials and express your support for this policy. Working together, we can deliver the critical relief people need at this difficult time.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris is the Deputy Majority Leader in the New York State Senate. He represents New York’s 12th State Senate district, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood and Woodhaven.

This op-ed first appeared on the site Data for Progress

email the author: [email protected]

8 Comments

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Gardens Watcher

Jobless claims were almost double what was expected: 6.6 million, not 3.5 million. And that doesn’t include those who couldn’t even file a claim since the state systems are crashing due to volume.

The state budget is overdue now, Senator G. Do your job responsibly! Introducing a Suspend and Forgive Rent program of course is wildly popular. But barring a medical breakthrough, this virus is not going away anytime soon. So where is that money going to come from?

I understand Albany is standing on quicksand with the budget, but to answer your question “What can we do?” YOU could do your part by proposing a pay CUT for legislators — or better yet, a pay suspension.

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Jimmy g

I’m a landlord and if anything the tenant should pay another security deposit now. I own several properties and would lose money. Just because I don’t have a mortgage on any property I own but just because there’s a virus I have to lose on my investment. It’s not right to me

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Agreed, you should make your tenants suffer during a pandemic

Great point–you own plenty of properties, have no mortgage to pay at all, and have passive income coming in every month.

Some people work service jobs 9-5, and got laid off.

What should you do to help them? Demand money from them of course! Wow, the president is Trump is a typical greedy luxury real estate developer too!

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Doc

What other free stuff is everybody entitled to? How much will you be contributing? Where do I sign up for all the free stuff?

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Mac

Jimmy g- I own “mortgage free” property too and would be adversely impacted by this legislation as well, I would also be adversely impacted if thousands of neighbors would be evicted. I’ve worked with tenants on much smaller scales, during times of financial hardship. I think suspending financial obligations” is extreme, maybe going the way of an interest free deferred payment policy. Nobody wants to lose money but everyone will lose money that’s just reality and we will be the lucky ones if money is all we lose. Jimmy you need to count your blessings and if you can’t stomach a financial hit you need to get out of the “investment” game, you sound like the type who would risk peoples lives just so you don’t lose money on your investment.

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