Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week for not offering the same relief to renters in the state that he has extended to homeowners amid the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting he’s “creating a class and race issue.”
Cuomo had announced earlier this month that homeowners affected by the crisis can have their mortgage payments suspended for three months.
While tens of millions of Americans of all races are suffering economically from the spread of the crisis, Ocasio-Cortez specifically highlighted racial minorities’ hardships in an attempt to advocate for suspending rent payments.
“There’s absolutely racial and class inequities baked into the crisis,” Ocasio-Cortez said Monday on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
“If you are able to stay home, you are a privileged person in this moment.”
The New York congresswoman emphasized this point to argue for more government aid, claiming that those who are still working in essential businesses such as grocery stores and food delivery “are overwhelmingly lower-income. They’re black. They’re brown.”
“And they still have to pay rent tomorrow.”
Ocasio-Cortez used these claims to propose a relief plan for renters in line with her socialist beliefs, saying that racial minorities and poorer people are being neglected while the rich are being favored.
“We’re kind of creating a class and race issue,” she said. “We’re essentially rewarding and offering preferential treatment to landowners and folks who are more wealthy, and we’re not offering that same kind of relief to renters.”
“If you call for a suspension or moratorium on mortgage payments, then we should also call for that same treatment on rent payments,” Ocasio-Cortez also said.
Ocasio-Cortez again argued that the coronavirus is exacerbating racial divides by talking about the health care system.
She mentioned that she’s seen black and brown people die of the coronavirus after being denied coronavirus tests.
On March 27, three days prior to her comments, five Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar demanding a racial breakdown on who is being tested and treated for the coronavirus.
There is no evidence people have been denied tests on the basis of race. Difficulties in obtaining a test have been attributed to a shortage of resources rather than discrimination.
Because of the detrimental effect that the spread of the coronavirus has had on the local economy, Ocasio-Cortez said she believes it will be impossible for many New Yorkers to pay for their housing. Therefore, she said, the government needs to step in and help.
“There is no way that hundreds of thousands of people in New York City are going to be able to pay their rent and pay their mortgage when through no fault of their own, half of the city’s economy has been suspended. We have to make sure we are addressing their needs,” she said.
“We can create this breathing space, and if anything, it can act like a back-door universal basic income. We’re able to put cash into people’s pockets, they’ll be able to take their rent money and use it for food, use it for child care, use it to go to the doctor, to afford medicine, without actually having the city or the state cut a tax.”
In fact, Cuomo has taken action to help renters. While he has not suspended rent payments, he has suspended evictions for the next three months.
“You cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent,” Cuomo said Monday, according to Fox News. “It’s not that you won’t owe rent at one time, right, because you signed a contract. Even the people to whom you pay the rent have to pay the rent, right, and they have expenses. So, no evictions for nonpayment of rent and then we’ll see where we are and we’ll see how long this goes on.”
Renters will thus still have to pay up later on, since Cuomo recognized there is no such thing as a free lunch, as landlords have to pay their bills too.
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