Gov. Kathy Hochul is calling state lawmakers back to Albany to take up a slew of unfinished items, including an extension of New York's eviction moratorium until Jan. 15 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a slow trickle of rental aid to those who are struggling.
"We are not going to abandon our neighbors in the state of New York," Hochul said on Tuesday evening.
At the same time, the state Legislature is being called into an extraordinary session to bolster the state's sluggish rent relief program, expand the state's opening meetings law and appoint officials to a cannabis control board in order to jump start the state's commercial marijuana program.
The session marks the first major action of Hochul's young governorship, coming a week after she elevated to the office following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo.
State lawmakers are expected to vote Wednesday on the agreement to extend the moratorium on evictions, which covers tenants who have experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York's ban was due to expire on Tuesday, but a confluence of factors led state lawmakers and the new governor to come to the bargaining table to discuss an extension.
Billions of dollars in state and federal aid has only trickled out to tenants and landlords to help make them whole, a bureaucratic morass officials have pledged to streamline. A state comptroller report found only a fraction of the renters who qualify for aid have received it. The U.S. Supreme Court this month struck down a provision of New York's moratorium that dealt with hardship cases. Days later in a separate ruling, the court also struck down a federal eviction moratorium.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued apace in New York and around the country as the more highly contagious delta variant has led to a resurgence in hospitalizations, largely among the unvaccinated.
Landlord organizations could still mount an additional legal challenge to the extension. Property owners have pointed to their own financial struggles during the pandemic, with many owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage payments as well as property taxes.
Hochul said she was sympathetic to the plight of landlords, calling it a "temporary safety net" to aid them.
At least one Democrat, Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, plans to vote against the extension as she did earlier this year.
"We must work to restore balance in the housing market," she said. "Landlords should not be punished for the state's failure to distribute rent relief in an expeditious manner.”
Hochul in recent days has sought to highlight emergency rental assistance funding, pledging to get the money out the door faster with a task force to lead the effort to simplify the process. Tenants who apply for the aid are not subject to eviction as the claim is being processed.
While housing advocates had called for immediate attention to the expiring moratorium, evictions can months to finalize, especially with a backlog of court cases.