The New Year is just around the corner and I hope that it will bring brighter days than what we have collectively endured in 2020. Nonetheless, this year showed the strength of my district as we all made sacrifices, stayed home, masked up, and cared for one another through various community efforts. As we look forward to 2021, I urge you to stay diligent in your precautions against COVID-19 with the resolve that we have made it this far and there are better days ahead.
On Monday, December 28, the state legislature passed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020. Here is what is in the bill, as per the Assembly Communications office:
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 will help tenants facing financial hardship during the pandemic to stay in their homes. The legislation will protect through May 1, 2021 residential tenants at risk of non-payment or holdover eviction who can attest to a financial or health-related hardship. Once enacted, all residential eviction related matters would be placed on hold for 60 days. The only evictions against a tenant that could move forward under this proposal would be against those tenants who fail to certify or are not experiencing a financial or health-related hardship, or are found by the courts to be persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes upon their neighbors or causes a substantial safety hazard to others.
The Office of Court Administration (OCA) will be required to publish an easy to read “hardship declaration form” for tenants. Once filed a hardship declaration would qualify as proof of financial hardship supporting a defense under the Tenant Safe Harbor Act and any other law or executive order under which a financial hardship defense is available.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which passed the Assembly in May and was signed into law, provided a defense of financial hardship and has allowed thousands of financially challenged tenants to remain in their homes. This complimentary legislation recognizes that with COVID-19 again on the rise, access to the courts has been restricted, and it may be dangerous for individuals to appear in court.
Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Protections:
The bill will also protect homeowners suffering from financial hardship against mortgage foreclosure as a result of the pandemic. It will freeze residential mortgage foreclosure proceedings for 60 days and allow certain homeowners who own 10 or fewer residential dwellings, including their primary residence to obtain a stay of mortgage foreclosure and tax lien sales until May 1, 2021. It will also ensure that while the stay is in effect, no other foreclosure action can be commenced to recover the unpaid mortgage or delinquent taxes.
These homeowners would also be protected from adverse reporting to any credit reporting agency and from discrimination in credit decisions made by lending institutions related to a stay of mortgage or tax foreclosure proceedings, tax lien sales or if they are in arrears and file a hardship declaration until May 1, 2021.
Protections for Seniors and Disabled Homeowners:
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 will also help seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities stay in their homes by requiring every locality and local assessor to automatically renew the Senior Citizens Homeowner Exemption (SCHE) and the Disabled Homeowner Exemption (DHE) on the 2021 assessment roll. This will require local assessors to make renewal applications available through mail or electronic means and will allow localities to adopt a local law or resolution to require renewal applications to be filed where an owner’s eligibility may have changed. It would also prohibit localities and local assessors from requiring homeowners to appear in person to file a renewal application for any reason.
Other updates that could be of use to you in the New Year:
Extended and expanded federal unemployment benefits starting next week:
Starting the week of January 3rd, unemployed New Yorkers will receive an additional $300 payment through the extended Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Unemployment Compensation Programs. New Yorkers currently receiving benefits do not need to call the Department of Labor to receive these extended benefits—they should continue to certify for unemployment benefits in their usual manner and will automatically receive extended benefits.
COVID-19 Rent Relief program accepting applications as of December 18th:
The program will be open until Monday, February 1st, 2020 with expanded eligibility criteria to serve tenants who may have been previously ineligible or did not initially apply. Households no longer need to have been rent burdened (defined as paying 30% of monthly gross income toward rent) prior to the pandemic to qualify. Previous applicants do not need to reapply as denied applications will be reevaluated. Visit https://hcr.ny.gov/rrp for an application.
Moratorium on utility and municipal shutoffs due to COVID-19 is currently in place:
NYS Public Service Law provides temporary protectionsfor essential utility and municipal services. If you experienced a change of financial circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, utilities companies and municipalities may not shut off your service for nonpayment, must reconnect your service within 48 hours, and must offer you a deferred payment agreement to pay any balance due. Learn more here: https://www3.dps.ny.gov/W/AskPSC.nsf/All/D3BB77AFE92D6FFF852585EE0051A13E?OpenDocument
In addition, the NYS Department of Public Services a variety of other resources to help you this winter:
Visit AskPSC.com to find guidance and information on controlling your heating costs, preparing your home for winter, your rights and consumer protections as a utilities customer, and more.
Updated quarantine guidelines align with the CDC’s recommendations:
Individuals exposed to COVID-19 can end their quarantine after 10 days without a testing requirement as long as no symptoms have been reported during the quarantine period. After day 10 is reached, individuals must continue monitoring for symptoms through day 14 and if any develop, they should immediately self-isolate and contact their local health department or their health care provider to report this change and determine if they should seek testing.
The New York Blood Center is increasing the nation’s supply of convalescent plasma:
If you have recovered from COVID-19, NYBC encourages you to donate plasma. NYBC will collect, process the plasma for infusion, and maintain a bank for hospitals to treat patients with serious or immediately life threatening COVID-19 infections. Sign up to donate here: https://www.nybc.org/donate-blood/covid-19-and-blood-donation-copy/convalescent-plasma-covid-19-donor-request-form/?utm_source=web&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=covid
Starting January 1, 2021, New Yorkers can begin using sick leave benefits under the state’s Paid Sick Leave law:
This legislation secures paid sick leave for workers at medium and large businesses and paid or unpaid leave for those at small businesses, depending on the employer’s net income. New Yorkers can use guaranteed sick leave to recover from an illness themselves, care for a sick family member and more. Learn about paid sick leave here: https://www.ny.gov/programs/new-york-paid-sick-leave
Happy New Year, and please stay safe. As always, my office is available to hear any questions or concerns you may have. Give us a call at 914-941-1111.