Responding to the Impact of COVID-19 on New York City
Washington, March 24, 2020
First and foremost, every health official agrees that the most important thing we can do right now is stay home, avoid large crowds, and practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from people outside your family. Routinely wash your hands, clean frequently touched objects, stay away from others if you are sick, and, above all, stay calm and informed. The Governor, the Mayor, and my office are working to keep people informed on our Twitter accounts and up-to-date information on the pandemic is currently available on my website.
Below, I have responded to many of the concerns I have heard from all of you about the impacts this health emergency will have on your lives and businesses. This situation is changing rapidly, and Congress is working to pass legislation to help the hundreds of millions of families impacted by this virus.
Rent and Mortgage Relief: As the City shuts down, businesses close, and events are canceled, many of you have been concerned about how to pay your rent or mortgage and what will happen if you cannot make your monthly payments. Research has shown that stable housing is directly tied to better health outcomes, and we have to do everything we can to keep every New Yorker stably housed during this health emergency. I want you to know I fully support every effort to ensure that my constituents have the financial support to continue making rent and mortgage payments and that banks, federal agencies, and other lenders suspend all foreclosures and evictions during this public health emergency. To that end, I have taken several steps. First, I joined several of my colleagues in urging every major bank to suspend all foreclosures during the health emergency. Second, I signed a letter calling on all federal housing agencies, including HUD, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the VA, to impose a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions on all properties they own, insure, or oversee. Third, I cosponsored a bill prohibiting all evictions from rental housing—it's crucial that we protect both homeowners and renters throughout this trying time. Finally, I joined my colleagues in sending a letter to all credit reporting agencies urging them not to report adverse credit incidents like missed rent or mortgage payments during the pandemic to keep people’s credit whole.
Relief for Contract, Gig, and Tipped Workers: As businesses across the city heed the advice of public health officials and scale down operations or close, many gig workers, independent contractors, hourly workers, and tipped workers have lost virtually all income. Many of these New Yorkers are ineligible for paid leave and in danger of being laid off. It is imperative that Congress acts swiftly to provide relief for these workers and their families. Accordingly, I joined several of my colleagues in writing to Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, and the Committee on Ways and Means to urge them to include provisions for freelance and contract workers in the entertainment industry who have lost work. I am also working with my colleagues to pass legislation that will provide direct funding to Americans during this downturn to ensure they can continue to pay rent, buy food for themselves and their family, and get prescription medication. Finally, I signed a letter calling for support for artists and those who work with arts organizations to ensure they stay afloat during the pandemic. It is imperative that any measure we pass going forward provide support for all workers and ensure that everyone who was laid off, had their hours cut, or had to take leave, regardless of what type of work they do, has financial support.
Current Students and Student Borrowers: Both current and former students have been significantly impacted as a result of this health emergency. Many colleges and universities were the first institutions to close, canceling class and sending students home. For homeless students, international students, or students who were unable to return to their home, colleges and universities have provided emergency housing but as this pandemic stretches on, those resources may wear thin. At the same time, as millions of New Yorkers find themselves out of work, paying down student debt has become impossible. Current students should not be forced to bear the emergency housing costs for those that were unable relocate to their permanent homes when schools were closed, and students should be reimbursed for educational services and benefits they did not receive. I recently joined my colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos to ensure that students do not bear these burdens. Individuals with student loan debt should be given assistance and loan forgiveness, including cancelling of loans, elimination of interest, and protections for their credit scores and reports during the pandemic. That will ensure that students do not have to make choices between buying food or paying loans and that any missed payments do not impact their credit going forward. While I was pleased to see the President announce a two month pause in student loan payments and that all interest will be suspended for 60 days whether you choose to pay or not, there is still more that must be done to support those with student loan debt.
Mass Transit Agencies: The transportation sector—particularly mass transit agencies—has been severely impacted by the economic slowdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. New York City’s MTA, like many other agencies, are spending millions of dollars to frequently clean and sanitize their stations, touchpoints, and fleet of subway cars and buses. At the same time, mass transit agencies around the country have seen a sharp decline in revenue and ridership as Americans stay home following the advice of public health experts. The decline in ridership is not expected to improve for weeks, if not months. Any stimulus package must include financial support for mass transit agencies, and I led the New York City delegation in sending a letter demanding that Congress provide that support.
Small Businesses: While COVID-19 is affecting every sector of our economy, it is our small businesses—many of which have narrow profit margins and cannot afford to close their doors for an indeterminate period of time—that will bear much of the economic brunt of this public health crisis. Many of you either own or work for a small business–particularly restaurants and bars–and will be hard hit. Some help has already been put in place. First, following a letter I sent to the Governor Cuomo along with the New York Delegation, all commercial rent will be suspended for 90 days, which will stop many small businesses from being evicted. Second, following a letter from the New York Delegation, the tax filing and payment deadlines were extended from April 15 to July 15. Finally, the Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans of up to $2 million to small businesses that can be used to cover payroll costs, pay fixed debts and accounts payable, or any other bills that cannot be paid due to the impact of COVID-19. Both non-profits and small businesses without credit available elsewhere will be eligible for these loans. New York State has set up a portal for more information or to apply. I have asked for tax relief and grants for all small businesses in addition to low- and no-interest loans be included in any stimulus package. We have to ensure small businesses survive this sudden economic downturn and have the resources they need to rebuild after the pandemic.
Non-Profits: I have heard from many of our partners in the non-profit sector that closures due to the coronavirus have put many social service, legal, educational, arts and culture, and religious organizations at risk. Many non-profits rely on donations and charitable giving to fund their operations, which will be directly impacted by the economic downturn. In addition, many of the insurance policies non-profits carry explicitly exclude coverage for a pandemic. As an important first step, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act would allow nonprofits to access tax credits for paid leave to employees. I also led the New York Delegation in sending a letter calling for $4 billion in funding for nonprofit cultural institutions to keep them afloat during the downturn, and I joined many of my colleagues in calling for additional funding for nonprofits and the arts workforce. More information about resources for arts institutions is available on the National Endowment for the Arts website. I believe we must provide meaningful financial support to ensure these organizations facing significant disruptions to their operations continue to serve their important role after the economy recovers. I am also working with my colleagues in government to urge agencies to waive performance metric provisions in contracts that are no longer possible to meet, such as client counts or open hours, so that non-profits can be held harmless during this period.
Travelers Stranded Abroad: I know many of you are concerned about loved ones who are trying to return home from abroad. The United States has taken sweeping action to limit the spread of the virus–including setting restrictions on entry into the country. Many of these announcements have come without much notice and have caused confusion and dangerous overcrowding at airports. Even with the later clarification that U.S. citizens would be allowed to enter the United States, commercial airlines have canceled thousands of overseas flights and more countries than ever are closing their borders. Travelers have found themselves stranded overseas with little information from the State Department about how to get home. The State Department is encouraging all travelers stranded abroad to enroll in STEP and to call (888) 407-4747 for assistance. While some flights have been arranged, confusion and mixed messages have made it nearly impossible to for travelers to get straight answers. I signed a letter calling for the State Department to share its plans with Congress and provide accurate information to travelers. Please call my Manhattan office at (212) 367-7350 if you or a family member are stranded abroad.
Finally, I anticipate that some corporate bailouts will be requested of Congress as this pandemic continues to impact our economy. But I want you to know that I have made it clear to both House and Senate leadership that any federal bailout must come with significant guardrails to protect workers, stop stock buybacks or executive bonuses, and ensure that workers have a seat at the table going forward.
We—myself, along with my New York and Washington staff—are continuing to work through this crisis, although our physical offices are closed for health and safety. We are answering phones and replying to emails through the website. If you need immediate assistance, please call my office at 212-367-7350 or contact me through http://nadler.house.gov.