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Queens lawmakers urge Cuomo to protect renters as eviction moratorium expires next month

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Renters are facing uncertainty as the eviction moratorium expires next month. Queens lawmakers are urging the governor to take action to protect New Yorkers.

The New York state freeze on evictions expires on Aug. 31. This moratorium has been extended several times throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but officials have not indicated there will be another extension.

Over $2 billion in rental assistance funds have been given to New York in the December 2020 coronavirus relief package and the American Rescue Plan. Tenants can request this relief through the Emergency Rental Relief Program (ERAP) application process, and eligible applicants can receive up to a year’s worth of unpaid rent and utilities.

However, these funds have not been distributed to renters yet. 

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney wrote a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to protect renters and expedite rental assistance.

“I am not confident that funds will be distributed in time to protect the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are at risk of eviction, causing additional stress for these households,” Maloney said in a statement. 

According to Maloney, about 120,000 applications were submitted in the first 30 days since the applications to receive the federal relief opened in June.

As a result, Maloney suggested that Cuomo extend the eviction moratorium until the federal funds have been disbursed, which would avoid mass evictions in August. 

“The Governor has taken decisive action up to this point to protect renters, and I hope he will continue to do so,” Maloney said. “Quick disbursement of these funds will help renters and landlords alike.”

According to the National Equity Atlas, 831,000 households are behind on rent in New York state, with over $3 billion estimated total rent debt. Though there has been economic progress amidst the pandemic, Maloney said people are still worried about losing their homes.

“Kicking people out of their homes will only harm our health and economic recovery,” Maloney said.

State Senator Michael Gianaris agreed with Maloney.

“Especially in light of troubling delays in distributing rental assistance funds, the eviction moratorium should be extended beyond Aug. 31 to keep people in their homes and prevent mass eviction crisis,” Gianaris said. 

Councilman Robert Holden has also expressed his support for renters but didn’t say the moratorium should be extended since landlords are struggling, too.

“While tenants have been at risk throughout the pandemic, so are small landlords — many of whom are seniors who depend on rent as their primary income,” Holden said. “Their desperate situation must also be considered. The state needs to process applications and get the emergency relief funds to tenants who need it more quickly, so both landlords and tenants can be helped out of this pandemic.”

On the other hand, Assembly member Jessica González-Rojas said she supported the cancellation of rent before the federal government stepped in and provided economic relief to the state. 

I would support the legislature reconvening to legislate extending the eviction moratorium until at least the end of the year,” González-Rojas said. “The reality is that ERAP, like many of the programs by the state, has not been effectively rolled out. New Yorkers need time and real relief.”

Cuomo has not yet extended the eviction moratorium but recently announced a streamlined application process for the rent relief program to eliminate barriers for eligible New Yorkers to receive funds. 

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