Residents of a Mott Haven apartment building demanding rent cancelations as concerns grow over the ability of employees furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue paying rent. Photo courtesy of South Bronx Tenant’s Movement. The Banner, which reads CCR, stands for “Cuomo, Cancel Rents”

The state has extended the hold on residential and small business evictions until Aug. 31. The moratorium expired on May 1.

“It is critical that we continue to protect both New York’s tenants and business owners who have suffered tremendous hardship throughout this entire pandemic,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release.

For residents, people have to submit a hardship declaration form or some other type of comparable document explaining their COVID-related hardships to their landlord to be eligible for eviction protection. Landlords are still allowed to evict residents if they are creating safety and health hazards for other tenants.

For commercial properties, the legislation pertains only to small businesses with less than 50 employees that demonstrate a financial hardship. Business owners must also provide a hardship declaration form to their landlords.

The state is expected to begin distributing $2.4 billion, which was approved in this year’s state budget, in rent relief to residents and landlords.

To receive rent relief, a tenant must have qualified for unemployment benefits or lost household income, demonstrated the risk of homelessness and generated income at or below 80% of the area median income.

Eligible tenants can receive up to a year’s worth of back rent and back utilities for outstanding bills since March 13, 2020. Rent-burdened tenants – those who pay more than 30% of their income in rent — can also get three additional months of future rent payments.

Emmanuel Padilla, of the renters advocacy group South Bronx Tenant Movement, said the rent relief money is a bandage but not a fix to the problems renters are facing.

“It’s certainly harm reduction but not a solution,” he said in a phone interview. “I think there needs to be a cancelation of rent for the (rest) of the pandemic, or if they are adamant about not cancelling the rent, but doing rent relief, then that should cover the entire duration of the economic burden that’s coming out of COVID.”

Padilla hopes the rent relief program is made easily accessible for poor and working class Black and Brown communities – folks who have been highly affected by the pandemic. He’d like to see plenty of government assistance for residents trying to navigate the relief process such as information and applications available in multiple languages.

Cuomo signed the bill into law Wednesday, May 5, the same day a federal judge overturned a national eviction moratorium. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed the national ban under the Trump administration, and President Joe Biden recently extended it till June. Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the CDC did not have the authority to declare an eviction moratorium. The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing the decision.

No matter the decision on the federal level, New Yorkers are protected by the state’s moratorium.


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