The state legislature is set to extend the eviction moratorium on small businesses and landlords with fewer than 10 apartment units through May.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the he has reached a deal with the legislature to expand the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act which he first introduced by executive order at the height of the pandemic.
Since being stripped of his emergency powers as he grapples with accusations of sexual harassment and his administration’s role in allegedly covering up nursing home deaths, Cuomo has to seek the legislature’s approval for any legislative changes.
“New York has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect and strengthen our economy throughout the war on COVID, and it is critical that we continue to provide support as we ramp up our vaccination efforts across the state,” Governor Cuomo said.
“By signing the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Business Act of 2021 we are strengthening the backbone of our economy – our small businesses that have faced unprecedented hardships – and this legislation will be instrumental in helping build New York’s economy back better than ever before.”
When the new legislation is signed into law, the agreement will expand protections to small businesses with 100 or fewer employees, and to any business with 500 or fewer employees that was closed to in-person operations by executive order or department of health directive for two or more weeks between May 15, 2020 and May 1, 2021.
Cuomo first announced a State moratorium on residential and commercial evictions on March 20 last year for a period of 90 days to ensure no tenant was evicted during the height of the public health emergency. The commercial eviction and foreclosure moratorium was extended multiple times by Executive Order.
The COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020, signed into law by the Governor in December, prevented residential evictions, foreclosure proceedings, credit discrimination and negative credit reporting related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also extends the Senior Citizens’ Homeowner Exemption and Disabled Homeowner Exemption from 2020 to 2021.
The Governor signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act on June 30, which extended the eviction moratorium for tenants until the Emergency expires. Additionally, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to provide financial assistance to residential renters to provide relief during the public health emergency. Governor Cuomo also has provided additional protections for residential renters from charges for late payment of rent, and allowed tenants to use security deposits to pay rent for residential tenants by Executive Order.
Senator Anna Kaplan said, “Our small businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic, and they need our help if they’re going to survive these challenging times. The COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act, which I’m proud to have introduced, will hit the pause button on eviction and foreclosure proceedings for small businesses that are struggling, giving them a shot at survival, and giving them the opportunity to get back on their feet without the looming threat of being closed down for good just because they’ve fallen behind during the pandemic.”
The NYC Hospitality Alliance said the expansion of the moratorium will be a lifeline to the city’s restaurant industry, which has been devastated by the Covid-induced economic crisis.
“This updated legislation expanding eviction protections to cover businesses with more than 50 employees is a critically important, otherwise it would have excluded local restaurants and nightlife establishments that are labor intensive businesses and have been among the most devastated sector of the economy,” explaing Andrew Rigie, executive director of the Alliance.
“More and more of New York City’s restaurants have been unable to afford rent in recent months, and the number of restaurants who owe months’ worth of back rent only continues to grow. The federal restaurant relief will go a long way towards helping our restaurants’ recover, but much more support is needed to ensure that the industry remains a staple of New York City’s economy and culture.”
However, Jay Martin, executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), said the extension is “jus kicking the can down the road.”
“Eviction moratoriums are just stall tactics,” said Martin. “It is long past time for the government to present a real recovery plan that gives small businesses hope that they can reopen and prosper.
“While we understand lawmakers desire to protect business, it is important to make clear that they have done nothing to help commercial property owners who still have to pay exorbitant real estate taxes and other costs even though many are collecting little to no rent. This is not a solution. This is kicking the can down the road, again.”