Talks for a special session to address an expiring moratorium on pandemic-related evictions are underway with top state lawmakers in Albany, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday afternoon said.
"I am in talks with the Senate Majority Leader and Assembly Speaker to call a special session to address the impending eviction crisis, given the Supreme Court's decision," 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."
Earlier in the day, Hochul and top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly on Friday announced they were discussing the next steps after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal moratorium on pandemic-related evictions and a similar provision in New York is set to expire next week.
A source later on Thursday said a special session is likely as soon as next week. A vote could be held after the state's moratorium officially lapses, but that is not expected to have a major affect on tenants at risk of eviction, the source added.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Friday, meanwhile, said "three-way discussions" over the issue are continuing.
Hochul, who took office on Tuesday as governor, has sought to make the distribution of billions of dollars in assistance for landlords and tenants a priority. Applying for aid can stave off an immediate eviction.
"It is critical that New Yorkers know that anyone who applies to the rent relief program will automatically be protected from eviction while their application is pending," Hochul said. "More than $800 million has already been already disbursed or is now ready for landlords to accept on behalf of their tenants. 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. This is urgent."
Hochul called the Supreme Court's Thursday evening ruling "appalling and insensitive" by eliminating "a key line of defense" for people who are struggling during the pandemic.
The eviction moratorium in New York is meant to prevent people who have been financially affected by the public health crisis to avoid losing their homes if they cannot pay rent. Landlord organizations, however, have decried the ban, arguing it has made it difficult for them to pay bills and taxes.
“The Supreme Court struck down the federal eviction moratorium, and once again, New York State must lead the way," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. "As the Delta variant spreads, all levels of government must work together and solve this problem. This is the time for the government to step up and protect all New Yorkers as we continue to battle this pandemic. We are working with both the Governor and the Assembly to figure out the best path forward."
New York's program for rent relief, meant to alleviate financial pressure on both renters and owners alike, has only seen a trickle of money flow to the people who need it.
An audit released Aug. 16 by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found New York has only distributed a fraction of the billions of dollars in available aid.
It's not yet clear if state lawmakers will return to Albany to address the state's own expiring moratorium, but the impact could be light in the short term.
Evictions typically take weeks, if not months for final approval, and during the pandemic can often take far longer given the backlog in the court system.
Still, housing advocates are calling now for action.
Some housing advocates have called for the moratorium to be extended into next year amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19, which has led to a rise in hospitalizations.
Jason Cone, the chief policy officer for the anti-poverty Robin Hood Foundation, pointed to the wide-ranging economic fallout from evictions.
"Inaction could force hundreds of thousands of our neighbors to lose their homes, just as delta-driven COVID-19 cases surge and hospitalizations rise," he said. "Mass evictions could also condemn an entire generation to poverty."
The Supreme Court, earlier this month in a separate ruling, blocked a provision in New York's eviction moratorium, but left some protections intact.
"Our leaders must reconvene the New York State Legislature and extend and improve the eviction moratorium before Tuesday," Cone said. "Leaders in Albany have an opportunity to stave off a preventable crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve."