Queens assemblyman calls for $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 emergency housing and rental assistance

Hevesi stresses ethics, schools in campaign
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State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and state Senator Brian Kavanagh, joined by a coalition of state and local elected officials and other New York leaders, are calling on Congress to include $100 billion in additional stimulus funding — with $10 billion for New York state — for housing and rental assistance. 

Over 200 state senators, assemblymembers, city councilmembers, county executives, citywide elected officials, tenant advocates, and landlord organizations on April 16 sent a letter to Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand along with the New York Congressional delegation. The group requested a substantial infusion of federal funds specifically for rent subsidies. 

Hevesi said rental assistance is critical to ensuring that vulnerable New Yorkers are not disproportionately affected by the current lockdown. 

“People who are homeless and housing insecure are being exposed to COVID-19 at significantly higher rates, which has serious implications on their ability to weather this crisis and recover both physically and financially,” Hevesi said. “Rental assistance has also become crucially important for all of the New Yorkers who will no longer be able to pay their rent in the next few months through no fault of their own. It is incumbent upon the government to protect our neighbors.”

Kavanagh, chair of the New York State Senate Housing Committee, recently introduced state legislation, S8140A/A10248, to provide emergency rental assistance vouchers to help keep New Yorkers — who have lost jobs or income due to the COVID-19 crisis — from losing their homes. 

Under the voucher program, the government will pay for rent that exceeds 30 percent of an individual’s or family’s current monthly adjusted income, for rent up to 250 percent of the fair market rate for the area. 

The legislation has 27 co-sponsors in the Senate and 18 in the Assembly, and has received broad support from tenant groups and landlords alike. 

“As we work to contain the suffering this deadly pandemic is causing, we must devote funds to protecting tenants and stabilizing the housing market,” Kavanagh said. “Our legislation offers a clear path to help tenants remain in their homes and provide landlords with sufficient funds to pay their mortgages, maintenance costs, and property taxes.” 

City Councilman Robert Cornegy, Jr., chair of the Council Committee on Housing and Buildings, said, the COVID-19 pandemic should not result in anxiety and fear that homelessness, displacement, and housing insecurity accompany the threat of illness. 

“We need to grant a peace of mind to New Yorkers and to families across the country — our shared communities must remain whole in the wake of this pandemic,” Cornegy said. “With $10 billion in rental assistance for New York State, we can ensure that countless families have the housing security they deserve.” 

According to Shelly Nortz, executive director for Policy, Coalition for the Homeless, the solution lies in the provision of adequate rental assistance for all who need it to keep their apartments or move out of shelters and off the streets. 

“Housing is Healthcare and it is the only long-term solution available to save lives in the new normal laid bare by this crisis,” said Nortz. “We are so grateful to Assembly member Hevesi and Senator Kavanagh for their tireless advocacy on behalf of our homeless neighbors.” 

The Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit organization that offers legal services to low-income New Yorkers, is supporting the request for more federal stimulus funding that is dedicated to addressing the burden that COVID-19 has placed on tenants. 

“We applaud the bill introduced by State Senator Kavanagh and other state legislators that will provide immediate relief to our clients and any and all vulnerable individuals in the form of emergency rental vouchers,” said Judith Goldliner, attorney-in-charge, of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society.