Rental assistance program announced

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Management announced at the end of March that residents who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can apply for assistance through a new program, although residents will still ultimately be required to pay all rent that is due.

The C19 Resident Financial Hardship Assistance Program provides options to leaseholders who have a demonstrated financial hardship as a result of the virus, which includes a loss of income or extraordinary expense due to COVID-19. Leaseholders who are in good standing who can demonstrate financial hardship can apply for assistance, but at least half of the leaseholders in the apartment must be experiencing hardship to be eligible for the program.

The program has multiple options for those who are able to provide proof of financial hardship, including a payment plan and early lease termination. Under the payment plan, residents can defer up to 100% of one month’s rent and will enter a payment plan that will have the deferred rent paid in equal installments every month until the lease ends.

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Temporary commissary kitchen at Eleven Madison Park

Left to right: Daniel Humm, chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park; Winston Chiu, Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) at Rethink; Dominique Roy, Culinary Research and Development at Eleven Madison Park. (Photo courtesy of Rethink)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Nonprofit organization Rethink has partnered with Eleven Madison Park to feed New Yorkers in need during the pandemic. The organization, which uses food excess from restaurants throughout the city for meals for hungry New Yorkers, announced last Thursday that they were transforming into Emergency Food Management and would be turning the Michelin-starred restaurant adjacent to Madison Square Park into a commissary kitchen that will serve healthcare workers and other New Yorkers impacted by the pandemic. The restaurant and organization are expected to produce more than 2,000 meals per day at full capacity.

“Our mission of delivering food to New Yorkers in need has never been more important, and finding a way to continue serving those that have always relied on us, as well as helping hospitals provide meals in this all-hands-on-deck moment, is so important,” said Matt Jozwiak, Executive Director and Founder of Rethink Food NYC. “This innovative program also helps the very restaurants we’re using to prepare the meals and we hope this partnership serves as a model that can be replicated nationwide, which we’re already working to do.”

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Hoylman calls for Child Victims Act extension

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman is pushing to extend the revival window for the Child Victims Act (CVA) by another year because the pause on non-essential court filings cuts short the full 12-month period for survivors to file suit.

“Pausing all non-essential court filings is a difficult but necessary step to protect the health and well-being of our judicial system,” Hoylman said. “When we finally passed the Child Victims Act, we attempted to guarantee a full 12-month period for survivors to file suit. Yet because COVID-19 has indefinitely paused our judicial system, the CVA’s revival window has effectively closed as of today.”

The Office of Court Administration (OCA) last month announced an indefinite pause on non-essential filings and Hoylman argued that as a result, the CVA’s revival window is now effectively closed. The year-long lookback window opened last August when the law went into effect and it is unknown if survivors will be able to file claims again before the window was supposed to close this coming August.

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Relief available for small businesses affected by COVID-19

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The de Blasio administration and the Department of Small Business Services announced last Friday that loans are now available for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. The Small Business Continuity Fund offers financial assistance to small businesses in New York while they deal with challenges in response to coronavirus, and businesses can access the application online.

To meet the requirements for a loan, small businesses must be located within the five boroughs, demonstrate that the COVID-19 outbreak caused at least a 25% decrease in revenue, employ fewer than 100 employees across all locations, have no outstanding tax liens or legal judgments and demonstrate the ability to repay the loan.

In order to demonstrate a revenue decrease, businesses will be required to provide documentation such as point-of-sales reports, bank statements, quarterly sales tax filings, 2019 tax returns, or CPA-certified profit & loss statements. Businesses that are eligible can receive loans up to $75,000 to help retain employees and ensure business continuity.

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Advocates call to freeze, cancel rent for April

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City and state affordable housing advocates have proposed suspending this year’s Rent Guidelines Board vote, effectively freezing the rent for rent-stabilized units until June of next year, although the move would have to be enacted by the governor, who had not responded to the proposal by the end of March.

Despite the lack of an official response from Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Friday that the city government would be working with the state to suspend the Rent Guidelines Board process for the upcoming year, which would maintain all regulated rents at this year’s level until next year’s vote. The change would affect 2.3 million tenants in almost one million rent-stabilized apartments throughout the city.

“I think if ever there was a time there should be a rent freeze, it is now,” de Blasio said. “So for the millions of New Yorkers who live in rent-stabilized housing in this city, normally you wait until later in the spring for the Rent Guidelines Board to make its decision on what rent levels should be for the upcoming leases. What we’ve seen here, to me, makes clear that we need a rent freeze for everyone who’s rent-stabilized.”

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Elected officials propose plan to use security deposits for April rent

Council Member Keith Powers

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Four local elected officials, including Councilmember Keith Powers, have proposed that renters be allowed to use their security deposit for this month’s rent. Powers, in addition to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, announced the proposal last Tuesday and sent letters to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo last Thursday asking that tenants be given relief.

Allowing tenants to liquidate their security deposits would serve as a needed $8 billion cash infusion for the thousands of New Yorkers who have lost their jobs or income due to the coronavirus outbreak, the officials told Crain’s last week.

“New Yorkers are facing unprecedented circumstances due to the coronavirus,” Powers said. “With thousands of tenants facing sudden and unprecedented hardships, we must look toward immediate solutions for those struggling to make their next rent payments in a matter of days. Using existing, pre-paid security deposits to supplement rent payment allows tenants time to seek relief.”

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Locals stepping up to help during COVID-19

Trinity’s Services and Food for the Homeless near Tompkins Square Park has been providing meals for anyone who needs them. (Photos courtesy of Trinity’s Services and Food for the Homeless)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

While many businesses and organizations have been forced to shut down over the last few weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19, others in the community have persevered in order to help New Yorkers most in need, by volunteering at local soup kitchens, donating medical supplies and providing various healthcare services.

Trinity’s Services and Food for the Homeless, which has been operating out of Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish at 602 East 9th Street for the last 33 years, has continued providing hot meals and packaged food for people who need it, although Executive Director Alex Lawrence said that they’ve made adjustments to their soup kitchen and food pantry operations to keep everyone safe.

“The soup kitchen usually has a dining room, but obviously that is not good anymore so we switched to grab-and-go lunches,” he said. “One person comes in at a time and then we send them off.”

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