Kavanagh Introduces Bill to Provide Emergency Assistance to Tenants Losing Jobs & Income Due to COVID-19

March 30, 2020

Housing

On March 30, 2020, Senator Kavanagh introduced legislation, S8140, to establish a COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program. The bill would lay out 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.

The 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 has touched every part of our economy. With State and local governments mandating the shuttering of all but essential businesses in the interest of protecting public health, New York has seen a rapid and unprecedented economic decline. Many New Yorkers, facing severely reduced or entirely lost wages, will not be able to keep up with rent payments during this time. With a three-month moratorium on evictions in place, the immediate danger of mass displacement has been averted, but only temporarily. Once the public health crisis abates and the moratorium is lifted, many New Yorkers will be vulnerable to losing their homes. Moreover, the precipitous loss of rental income by property owners will have an adverse effect on their ability to maintain their property, pay employees, meet mortgage obligations, and keep up with property taxes that local governments will need to cover essential services.

This program provided for in this bill would bring urgent relief to those whose ability to pay has been diminished or eliminated through no fault of their own, while encouraging those who can pay at least a portion of their rent, because they continue to have income available, to continue to do so. As an emergency relief measure, the program would cover both the neediest renters as well as those in rental homes whose cost would typically make them ineligible for rental assistance. Rental obligations up to 250% of the fair market rate for the area would be eligible, as well as utility payments, meaning, for example, that in the New York City metropolitan area, rent of up to $4,877.50 for a two-bedroom apartment would be eligible for coverage, offset by 30% of the tenant's income during the crisis, if any.

Emergency rental assistance would remedy the worst effects of the public health and economic crisis New York is facing, keep people in their homes as they get back to work, and stabilize our communities.