NY leaders scramble to expedite aid to renters as top court nixes moratorium on evictions

ALBANY COUNTY — In a majority decision, the United States Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Biden administration’s moratorium on evictions.

“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the court ruled.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

“These questions call for considered decision-making, informed by full briefing and argument. Their answers impact the health of millions. We should not set aside the C.D.C.’s eviction moratorium in this summary proceeding,” wrote Breyer for the dissenters.

Governor Kathy Hochul issued a statement early on Friday, calling the ruling “appalling and insensitive.”

She urged New Yorkers to submit applications for federal aid immediately, stressing that anyone who applies to the rent relief program will automatically be protected from eviction while their application is pending.

“More than $800 million has already been already disbursed or is now ready for landlords to accept on behalf of their tenants,” said Hochul in a statement on Friday. “More than $1 billion remains available for relief and resources are available through community organizations to help New Yorkers apply, receive eviction protection, and pay their rent. New Yorkers should complete and submit their applications immediately.”

Hochul sent out a later release, saying she was in talks with the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly — both Democrats, like the governor — to call a special session “to address the impending eviction crisis.” Hochul said, “Our teams will be working through the weekend to address how best to deliver relief to renters and homeowners in need as quickly as possible.”

Also on Friday, the Republican leaders of the Senate and Assembly, Rob Ortt and Will Barclay, wrote a letter to Hochul, Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts Lawrence Marks, and Office of Temporary Disability Assistance Commissioner Michael Hein, calling on them to take immediate steps to allow tenants and landlords to receive critical financial relief and avoid evictions.

The GOP leaders proposed a series of recommendations that would create efficiencies within the court system to align tenants and landlords with access to available funding from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, such as ensuring housing courts are open and active; bringing more eligible applicants into the program; and having on-site staff in regions of the state where evictions are expected to be more prevalent. 

A recent report from the state’s comptroller, Democrat Thomas DiNapoli, said that Albany County has 142,884 households; more than a third — 52,331 households — are low-income. About the same number — 52,702 households — are rental.

Nearly a quarter of Albany County’s households — 33,695 — are low-income rental households and nearly a seventh of the county’s households — 20,135 — are low-income, rent-burdened households.

The comptroller’s analysis shows that, before the pandemic, the effects of low incomes and rent burdens fell disproportionately on non-whites, immigrants, and those who lack a college degree, many of whom worked in lower-wage industries. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on these same groups.

“Outreach efforts, technical assistance, and steps to streamline applications should be targeted to reach those most in need,” the report concludes.

DiNapoli’s report outlined a series of steps to expedite release of funds.

Infection surge

On Friday morning, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, in his daily release, announced 113 new cases of COVID-19 — the first time the daily count has hit triple digits in months.

“With 113 new COVID infections being reported today, we are now seeing the highest single-day increase since February 25 of this year,” said McCoy in the release. “I’m hopeful that this doesn’t become a new, even worse trend, but if it is, it’s alarming.”

He continued to urge residents to wear masks indoors and at large gatherings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all 50 states as well as Albany County now have, as a seven-day average, a high rate of transmission — the entire map is red — triggering guidance for wearing masks indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status.

 There are now 452 active cases in the county, up from 412 on Thursday. The number of county residents under quarantine increased to 739 from 681.

There were four new hospitalizations since Thursday, and 26 county residents are now hospitalized with the virus – a net increase of two. There are still five patients in intensive-care units.

Albany county’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 389.

 McCoy also noted an uptick in vaccinations in the county, “likely in part because of the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday.”

He said, “We’ve had a 20-percent jump in the number of people with at least one dose of the vaccine in the last week, compared to the 3-percent increase over the previous week.”


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