New York extends eviction moratorium, freezes pay for state officials

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed a pair of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic Monday when he signed a bill into law that put a moratorium on evictions and signed an executive order that would freeze pay for state commissioners and statewide elected officials, including himself.

The governor signed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act on Monday after both the state Assembly and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day.

Monday’s votes were needed in a special session as the current ban was set to expire at the end of the year.

Among the issues the new law addresses is an extension on eviction ban until May 1. To qualify for the protection, tenants must have endured a COVID-related hardship. Similar restrictions are in place for foreclosures and tax liens.

Cuomo said in addition to protecting renters and homeowners who have been affected by the pandemic, the law will protect their credit rating too.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we asked New Yorkers to protect each other by staying at home,” he said. “As we fight our way through the marathon this pandemic has become, we need to make sure New Yorkers still have homes to provide that protection.”

The Assembly passed the bill by a 99-47 vote. The Senate approved it by a 40-21 margin.

Republican state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, told WNYT-TV on Monday that she opposed the bill because there was no provision to verify individuals indeed had a hardship. She also expressed concerns about no minimum payment requirements in the meantime.

“It’s bad enough that people can’t pay their rent, but all of a sudden when May comes and they have nine, 10 months of rent to pay,” she said. “How do you expect them to pay that much at one time?”

In addition, Cuomo also signed an order that froze salaries for state commissioners and statewide elected officials. For himself, the move cost Cuomo $25,000.

Cuomo, though, previously indicated he would forego the pay hike, which lawmakers approved last year. The state budget, thanks to the business shutdowns and productivity declines because of the pandemic, faces up to a $30 billion deficit over the next two years.

While he said it was easy to make the decision on his own scheduled pay increase, he noted that the decision to freeze other state officials’ salaries wasn’t a reflection on their efforts.

“They probably worked harder this past year and performed better than any commissioner in their position frankly in decades,” Cuomo said. “There has been no test like this test for a government official. But I appreciate their sacrifice and their showing of solidarity for the people of this state during this difficult period and during this difficult financial period.”

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