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Caribbean Life, M 22 arch 27-April 2, 2020
A shuttered business in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Photo by Craig Hubert
through COVID-19 crisis
By Cate Corcoran
If someone is out of work thanks to
the coronavirus crisis and can’t pay the
rent or mortgage, what can they do?
The situation is changing rapidly
so what works today may not apply
tomorrow. Already 29 percent of New
York City residents have lost their jobs,
according to the latest weekly survey
from CUNY of 1,000 locals taken March
20 to March 22. And those numbers are
likely to climb as business closures and
work slowdowns due to government
mandated social distancing and illness
ripple through the economy.
Elected officials and others are
scrambling to prevent mass evictions
and foreclosures, which would only
intensify a growing public health and
The Crown Heights Tenants Union
has heard from members who fear they
will not be able to pay their rent April 1,
including a taxi driver, an airport worker
who is being laid off from his job at
JFK, and three roommates who all lost
their jobs, said member Sara Duvisac.
A 90-day state-mandated halt to evictions
took effect Friday. Lenders have
also been ordered at the state and federal
level to suspend mortgage payments
for at least 90 days to homeowners who
can’t pay because of COVID-19. The
missed payments will be added to the
back of the mortgage, extending its
time period, without credit reporting,
fees or interest.
Homeowners in danger of missing a
payment should reach out immediately
to their lender online rather than by
phone because of recent staff reductions,
according to the Housing Policy
Council, a group of lenders whose members
include JPMorgan Chase, Wells
Fargo and Citigroup. The group is working
to streamline procedures so lenders
are not overwhelmed and requests can
be quickly processed, in many cases
without requiring immediate proof of
need. “And finally, it is critical that
we continue to message that all those
who can pay their mortgage, should
pay their mortgage,” reads the group’s
COVID-19 statement on its website.
But temporarily halting evictions is
not enough to bail out renters, housing
advocates said. “If there is no organized
structure, people will be really vulnerable,”
said Crown Heights Tenants Union
member Joel Feingold.
Tenant groups are calling for a
statewide halt to rents during the crisis,
measures to ensure landlords will not
demand back rent and evict people after
the eviction moratorium has ended,
and direct subsidies to tenants out of
work. Some are also in the early stages
of planning a rent strike.
Help for tenants is “not just for tenants
but really a bailout for landlords
too,” said Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-
Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at
The Legal Aid Society. “It helps everybody.
It’s in no one’s interest if all these
people who’ve lost their jobs now lose
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