Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday extended the state's moratorium on evictions related to the coronavirus pandemic for nearly two months.
The moratorium, which was issued in March and set to expire at the end of June, will extend to Aug. 20.
"People are anxious, and June is just next month and the rent bill is going to come due," Cuomo said. "No one can be evicted for nonpayment of rent – residential or commercial – because of Covid.
"I hope it gives families a deep breath," the governor added during his daily coronavirus briefing, held Thursday at New York Medical College in Valhalla of Westchester County. "Nothing can happen until Aug. 20 and we’ll figure out between now and Aug. 20 what the situation is."
Cuomo also said the state was adding new rent relief steps of banning any late payment fees for rent and also allowing renters to use their security deposit as a payment they could repay later.
The governor said the "No. 1 issue" that people talk to him about is rent, "and the fear about being able to pay their rent."
"This just takes that issue off the table until Aug. 20," he said.
"One of the greatest vulnerabilities is, ‘I’m not working, I can’t pay my rent.’ We have to make sure our most vulnerable are protected."
Asked about the effect the rent postponement has on landlords, the governor said the state is working on "relief from the banks for the landlords also" and cited federal and state programs aimed at getting banks relief "so that they don't have to do any foreclosures."
"There is no doubt a trade-off between the tenant and the landlord," Cuomo said. "But on a human level, I don't want to see people and their children evicted at this time through no fault of their own."
Cuomo said the state's hospitalization numbers continued to decline in main categories, including the net change of hospitalizations and intubations and total hospitalizations, which was down to 8,600. The new Covid-19 hospitalizations per day was down slightly from Wednesday's total.
The state death toll for Wednesday was 231, the sixth straight day in the 200-range and nearly the same as Monday (230) and Tuesday (232).
Cuomo said the state's antibody tests on downstate front-line workers showed the effectiveness of precautions that all New Yorkers should take.
According to the tests, the percentage of front-line workers who had been exposed to the coronavirus was just under that of the general population on Long Island (11.1% to 11.4%). The percentage was dramatically reduced for front-line workers in New York City (12.2% for front-line workers to 19.9% of the general population) and Westchester (6.8% to 13.8%).
Cuomo called this "amazingly good news," reaffirming that front-line workers "must be protected" and that stockpiles must be maintained.
"It also shows everybody how important the masks and the gloves and the sanitizer are, and that they work," the governor said. "It’s not that the front-line workers get anything especially more sophisticated than the masks that people wear.
"They follow protocol, and those masks work. They work for front-line workers, they're going to work for people in their day-to-day lives."
This week Cuomo announced criteria that regions within the state would need to meet in order to reopen on May 15, when the state's "NY Pause" order is set to expire.
The governor Thursday offered a counterpoint to what he called an “absurd" reopening argument, saying he has heard the view of “if we reopen, people will die – but people were going to die anyway.”
“Look, we’re all going to die at one point, the big question is when, and how, and the when and how matters,” Cuomo said. “I understand that I’m going to die. I just don’t want to die now. Or next week. And I don’t want to die because I contracted the Covid virus unnecessarily.
“Yes, we’re all going to die. That is not a justification in my mind.”
Cuomo said it would be a “novel defense” in a different scenario.
“A person is before a judge, charged with murder," he said. "Did you have a gun? 'Yes.' Did you fire the gun? 'Yes.' Did you shoot the person? 'Yes.' Did the person die? 'Yes – but the person was going to die anyway.’”