Ithaca, New York has become the first city in the U.S. to cancel rent payments in response to COVID-19.
A new resolution now allows Ithaca’s Mayor Svante Myrick to cancel rent debt from the last three months for tenants and small businesses, pending approval from the state government.
In a city council meeting on June 3, the resolution was passed 6-4. This resolution freezes rent and requires landlords to offer tenants lease extensions and includes tenants and small businesses.
“The Governor’s extension is not a blanket moratorium on evictions,” the Ithaca Tenants Union said about the Emergency Tenant Protection Act. “Starting June 20, landlords can still pursue evictions and take their tenants to court, where tenants will have to prove that they are unable to pay rent due to economic issues brought on by COVID-19.
“If they don’t show up, they lose,” the statement continued. “When many Ithacans have been unable to receive stimulus checks and unemployment, and many of those are undocumented or gig workers, we know that our most vulnerable will still be left unprotected by this false moratorium.”
About 75% of Ithaca residents rent, according to Fast Company.
In early May, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the state’s eviction moratorium through August 20, after originally set to expire later this month. Renters would be allowed to apply their security deposits to their rent, according to the original executive order.
In New York, a COVID-19 hotspot, landlords are also prohibited from charging tenants late fees during the public health crisis.
According to the state Department of Labor, Ithaca lost 9,200 private-sector jobs in April, a 16.2% decrease from the year prior. The unemployment rate in Ithaca is currently between 10 and 11%, the Ithaca Journal said.