For the People: Do The Right Thing About Rent in 2021!
As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
May the Peace and Blessings of Allah (God) Be Upon You
On December 23, 2020 Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a continuation of the eviction moratorium in New York State since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. It's been nine full months, long enough for a new life to be born. For some, it has felt like an eternity. Federal protections against evictions expires on December 31st.
During the last nine months there have been a number of elections: special elections, primaries and the most critical general election held in November, 2020. The people did what they had to do. In force, the residents of New York State and New York City took to the polls taking advantage of Early Voting like never before! Surmounting the fear of being out among the coronavirus that still lurks contagiously among us on lines and in some polling locations that could not have managed social distances rules if it could. There were so many people. Those who used the option of mailing in absentee ballots did so in troves for reasons that included the COVID-19 pandemic. People, among them thousands who have become jobless, unable to pay bills and unable to pay the rent or the mortgage. The people were activated for change!
There is still an expectation, even after what has been witnessed over the last tumultuous four years of the calamitous and chaotic Trump administration that our failings as a nation can be righted. Some may think that perhaps, like thousands of years ago as written in the Biblical and Qur'anic account of Pharaoh who held people in bondage and was so unrulingly arrogant that plagues befell Egypt that people are now suffering widespread and seemingly uncontained losses as a result of the arrogance of 21st century leadership in many parts of the world. Strife is apparent almost everywhere. People are embattled on almost every continent. Can actions taken by such leaders be so severe as to bring about deadly repercussions that extend to the people? What are wars that radiate wherever they occur and kill innocent people who are counted as collateral damage? Is it possible that pestilence or other devastating events come to nations in which there are immoral leaders? A debatable question, but one in which good arguments exist for almost every corner of the globe. There are many living worlds beyond our human condition. These include the animal, plant and biologically at the cellular level and/or what some call Mother Nature. If we do not take care of it, will it take care of us?
The people spoke in 2020 with their votes. It was a mixed outcome in many states and localities. However, in New York State there was a resounding vote for change. For the first time since who can remember, Democrats, by name have a majority in the New York State Senate and Assembly. There is a capable democratic leader in the office of the Attorney General who is an experienced African American woman and ;leader, Letitia James. In the model of one of her mighty mentors, the very Honorable Shirley Chisolm, a congresswoman who represented the borough of Brooklyn and thus, the people of New York City and beyond in the US House of Representatives, Congresswoman Chisolm spoke with authority that she was "unbought an unbossed." She led with her conscience, values and faith and did the right thing for the people in all instances.
We have learned, if we doubted it, that politics costs and have consequences. It cost a lot to be in a position to run for elective office and to make it to being on the ballot. Who pays for it? The people. Yes, some candidates claim and do pay some out of pocket expenses, however until they are elected, they are part of the body of people paying for leadership or for change. The people pay with their contributions to campaigns in financial terms and physically by campaigning, volunteering and speaking to the issues in ways that support the needs of communities that bind us together. The people pay in taxes that cycled back and ended up on in the coffers of the Campaign Finance Board and every public service. If not, then what is it selling? The people always pay. Is this not a nation that is declared to be "by the people?" In 2020, that was solidified through elections that represented the voice, concerns and needs of the people. In 2021, the people need to see and obtain the implementation of policies that serve the people and not the ambitions of those elected office. In other words, the other part of the declaration is in want to be met i.e., "for the people."
Let's take rent as a foremost issue right now. The Governor of New York returned to the rent issue recently, not because he wants to but because he must. It is the biggest matter on the verge of exploding next month for those impacted by the federal moratorium expiring in a few days and the issue impacting New Yorkers that keeps getting extended but at some point will erupt with destructive impact. Cuomo is old enough to have heard the Gwen Guthrie song: Ain't Nothing Going On But the Rent. The elected officials representing the concerns of the people in the New York City Council, the offices of the Borough Presidents, the District Attorneys and Judges know the tune. It is the wound that is most open right now after the absence of employment in an economy that the economist say will take a few years, if that to recover. An eviction moratorium is the saving grace presently but at some point the proverbial feces are going to hit the fan! Landlords in the courts with actions against tenants. The unpaid rent is a foregone conclusion for most. Unless someone pays the outstanding rent or gives the money to the tenant to pay it, the Landlords will not recoup it. So what is to occur for their often corporate losses? Everyone will want something including the banks who hold mortgages that have also gone unpaid. This is a many billions of dollars crisis in the making bound to come to a head in the not too distant future.
Here is the people's interest: Do the right thing about the rent in 2021!
Politically speaking, it is said that there are "no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests." It's a difficult time for all involved in seeking a good outcome for the nation in an increasingly going bad COVID-19 pandemic at the end of a year fidgeting with misstatements and delusional pressers about the virus disappearing and curious treatments for it including shining lights into one's body and ingesting bleach for a cleansing. The mishandling of the coronavirus is a wound turned into a festering sore at this time. Appreciation however, must be provided to Governor Cuomo who took on a national leadership role that was successfully implemented in New York City and the state before the foolishness of the current administration in Washington botched people's sensibilities to the infection and promoted not wearing masks as a political statement. Who knows now when it will end nationally when people are traveling though advised not to do so and mask wearing is still not wholly respected and complied with by all people increasing the spread of the illness. Until it does there will be many impacts. Today's news states that there is someone dying every 10 minutes in the US.
For the last nine months, communities of color have been more directly and negatively impacted by the pandemic. There are health implications as well as economic for those most hard hit by the coronavirus. Rent that people can't pay still and so much back rent that will also be due. The answer lies somewhere in a determined keeping-a-roof-over-one's-head resolution of how to get out of the unpaid rent ditch millions in this nation are in due to COVID-19. We cannot exclude the ill-fated decisions and insensitive arrogant ramblings of people in power and/or the medical industrial complexities of testing and rushing to create a vaccine, as it can now rightly be called that contributed to the situation nationally and in this state. How many will even get a vaccine and when will prolong the pandemic and so how many more extensions will subvert the financial pain of landlords and anxiety of tenants? A moratorium allows a roof to stay over one's head for the present. The people are not blind and they are very nervous and scared about what can potentially happen to them. The courts are typically not of the side of the people; the courts tend to serve the property owners. Corporations have been in the act again, as they were when the sub-prime mortgage debacle of 2007-08 upended the economy for what is now known as the Great Recession. Was that a debacle or was it planned by the many money hungry bankers and lenders in the financial services industry who operated unchecked? The resurgence of Self-Storage buildings littering communities of color are presently being built before our eyes. Is it that communities of color have so much stuff or live in such small dwellings that the rental of storage space is a necessity? Or is this preparation for people to be separated from the housing called homes when the chips fall? What we don't see enough of is affordable housing being built. What does this trend suggest on the surface? Some would say it foretells that there will be many people becoming homeless in the not too distant future. Is this what people have paid taxes for when they were employed? It seems that businesses are too big to fail since the Great Recession or perhaps it started when Iacocca saved the Chrysler motor corporation in 1979 with a big government bailout and we did not pay attention afterwards as this assistance to failing businesses continued. Private corporations get saved when there is a financial crisis that would take them down and out-- even when their business decisions or inaction was the cause. When does this equivalent consideration or something tantamount to it apply to the people whose earnings and taxes have paid the cost for the infrastructure we all use, that support the corporations that produce the products that the people purchase and that pay the salaries and for all of the amenities of the people who serve in government to make decisions the people are reliant upon to maintain a civil society? We can do without cars; we cannot do without adequate housing and security for our families.
What could change the equation that hedge funds and corporations are betting on right now for people to become untethered from the housing they have worked their lives to sustain? I am speaking of home owners in mortgage debt. Business and the stock market bet against the people all of the time exploiting financial plans that undergird public services and agencies whose missions include serving the welfare, well-being and good of the people. What if the priority was that the people are too taxed out; too burdened by the excessive costs of living-- too underpaid for the work performed i.e., people had to fight politically and be in the street to gain a $15 minimum wage that totals just $31K a year. After the rent is paid, with most people paying more than 50% of their income for such, the $15K and less that remains is for all other expenses. These so-called corporate leaders and many a career politician wear watches that cost more than $15K. Listen, the people get it! After COVID-19 and its disparaging impacts, after George Floyd and in concert with Black Lives Matter and the growth of social and racial justice movements in 2020, it looks like the people will not be quiet about more social injustice in 2021. 2020 with its many challenges has provided clear vision on many matters of life and death.
Here is an idea. Less spending the money of the people on a new Space force and more military weapons! We know that is not local unfortunately, where politics have the most impact. New York's US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer should know the people care less about outer space and more about climate change in the space we occupy on the planet. The people want for the congresspersons representing the people of New York State to know that our homes need to be taken care first even as they mend the tattered international relationships that are the result of the 2016 - 2020 inept and vindictive administration. The new administration cannot just "look diverse" as society is; it must be diverse and understand the needs on the home front. All one need do is to look at France in 2020 and see the people in revolt for what they don't have. It was in France in 1789 that its monarch's wife at the time Marie Antoinette, when told that the people had no bread callously uttered to "let them eat cake"-- so out of touch with the people that it fueled a revolution in France and she lost her head, literally for her lack of understanding and concern about the people. Presently, the people are offered "stimulus checks" that are provided as if they are a "gift." Yes, the people will accept them (although every one may not get one), but the people will no longer non-objectively accept ruses by those elected to office for the purpose of representing the peoples' need for good faith and goodwill for the welfare they pay for. It is the people's money, after all. If it is not, whose is it? Tax payers always foot the bills of America.
People, all people, want to be safe in their homes with their children no matter where they live in the world. In 2018, the 116th Congress was asked to search for peace as a result of a Peace Perception Poll (see image below) that indicated that diplomacy rather than ,military solutions were a direction to take internationally. Diplomacy beats destruction every time. Americans don't know and don't want to know how it feels to have war going on in their midst. During the administration leaving office soon, the people have not had the cooperation of the media to see the harm coming to people in many instances in which the use of US tax payer dollars support such misery. People want to experience peace after the chaos of the last four years of a foolish, haughty federal government in Washington that abandoned professed democratic and humane values in what had been generally accepted as the foremost "democracy" in the "free world." The vast majority of struggling nations in the world know, not that it didn't already, but some Americans have not known or experienced the hefty price for freedom. When asked about this price for freedom, El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, in 1964 stated the price was "death." He paid that price as have other freedom fighters.
Peace Perception Poll from 2018 show diplomacy as the preferred means for peace.
People, without the basic need of safety, are put at risk. If you have ever had the experience of having no where to go, or the choice of going somewhere you did not want to go, like jail or to visit someone on death's door when losing a loved one, you know what is meant. It does not have to be so obvious that these are dreaded situations being used as examples. Yet, we can all identify with them. If you have never lost your home, your place of residence where you can lie your head down and not feel threatened-- you might not know how it feels much like a loss akin to death. Housing is not a luxury. It is a basic need. The serious impacts of COVID-19 mean that many people will have to start over. Some jobs will not return. Some people may have lingering effects from the virus. Some people's lives will have been changed in significant ways like having to raise siblings due to the death of a parent or a Grandparent who had been guardian raising his or her grandchildren. Life altering circumstances are to be confronted, the majority of such which has not occurred because we are still living through the pandemic. It cannot be those most in need who have to pay the price while others with means are taken care of via words in stimulus bills to provide money for three martini lunches for business owners. That cannot be the right thing to so right now. COVID-19 has impaired nearly all of us with the exception of those with huge salaries still making money and purchasing million dollar homes. There is poverty currently with about 17% of people and children affected. There is a lot of big spending going on with US billionaires having increased there wealth by almost a third at the same time while there are 45-50% of the American public living in poverty or on the brink of despair right now.
New York state representatives need to and can find the answer for the rent issue if they are determined to do so. While no one who has to pay rent now or pay too-big-to-cover arrears about which there is no money/income to accomplish such, these are what one may being evicted for as a result of the extension of the eviction moratorium-- as this can continues being kicked down the road. Some without common sense will think that the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (FPUC), that provided an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular unemployment benefits will be enough to make ends meet and pay the rent. In a pandemic, that we are all living in for the first time, that is an underestimate of what people's expenses are for food, transportation, medication, childcare to go to work to make what earnings that don't go far enough (and other items to stay connected-- yes, we have cell phone bills because we have to communicate our safety in this perilous time with family). There were many who did not qualify for this addition to their lost income. There are those whose entire loss of income as self-employed individuals was upended. Some self-employed individuals received financial of other support i.e., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits but still tens of thousands did not. What money people received they could not save even if some might have on could have gone towards the rent. People became untethered to their normal routines and for some the usual obligations.
It could be asked what elected officials were doing while the people are and were at risk? In Southeast Queens, it can be said that they were busy distributing PPE, food and trying to connect people to the information and services they needed. No complaints about how the people were shown concern and whose needs were attended to in many a dynamic manner-- yet, while not within their purview the rent money did not arrive while extension after extensions have. Community came together in ways on Zoom and otherwise unimagined to figure out how to cooperate and literally save people and children from hunger throughout New York City. Yet, the rent is and will be due. The people need all of the energy and efforts of political prowess to focus on this issue now. With a COVID-19 vaccine, there may be some significant change in the months ahead. During this time the arrears will continue to grow. How will those unable to pay rent get through this? What will be the outcome when the moratorium is ended? The courts can't handle the number of eviction cases projected. The hotels being used to house the homeless cannot support the hundreds of thousands in NYC alone; there are not enough shelters that few would go to and people cannot just live on the street with children! The outcome must be reasonable and should match the challenge COVID-19 has presented. It will be one that has not been experienced or determined before.
Where is that plan, please? Is its draft in the making by the chief economists in the world? Will the banks that have gained so much through all of this adversity rise to the occasion and finally put their profits out there to meet some of these costs? Will they write mortgage losses off? If the issue is money, the banks have it all or they have the influence with the Federal Reserve and as such government. The Cancel the Rent movement is not an absurdity. The government has cancelled huge loans, closed on deficits of all kinds, pardoned criminals and kept on keeping on. It cannot be said that rent cannot be cancelled. Everything, as when in a situation of national security-- this being an issue of every community except some of the gated wealthy ones. Having the same critical issue nationally, all options must be on the table including cancelling the rent for some, if not for all. The some are those who might take advantage of a need that does not exist. We must acknowledge that there has been the example of someone unqualified for the highest elected office in this nation that has provided the impetus for others to act similarly.
There are solutions found when everything is on the table. Honestly. It's logical that rent cannot be cancelled for home owner landlords who require it to pay their mortgage. They need to be taken care of financially or they need the biggest tax break to recoup their losses fully. Corporations can do what they do all of the time; experience profits and loss. Since the majority of major corporations pay little to no taxes, government can let them take a write off for commercial properties of small business owners who are in jeopardy of losing their businesses and barely holding on. There are many answers if looked for in earnest, and solutions to be found where the greater good for the people is the priority. As people with money sometimes say: it is only money. For people who have learned to not make money the answer for everything, its people. People always take priority over money.
What has not arrived yet is the absolute COURAGE to act on what all know is coming about rent. Recently, another debacle in this democracy emerged: one haughty person can mess everything up. Upstaging the agreement between the legislative branch of government by adding more money to the stimulus increasing it to $2000 is an excellent tweet having done nothing to assist the creation of a second stimulus months after the first while millions of people have suffered. The people always needed more than the paltry $600 in the bill after a weak compromise was struck. Guess whose money that is? It is the people's money and that should not ever be forgotten. It is time to be realistic and revolutionary about rent, ahead of the next crisis upon us when, God Willing, the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. That will be rebuilding the economy and upskilling those whose jobs will have vanished.
What about property and money lies at the core of the rent crisis that is being treated a bit as if it is another plague-- in other words, not given the breath and scope of attention it deserved-- none of which eases the pain, suffering and loss of life that for it is not worth an exchange. Not for even one individual's life. It can be reimagined as are other priorities. At its root it is another issue about the people. People are priceless. It is the people, Governor Cuomo and other elected representatives have oaths to serve. Not the real estate developers and major property owners, bankers and corporations. It is about protecting the well-being of the people. Let New York City and New York State get out ahead of what would become an onslaught of collateral damage from COVID-19. Lest it not be forgotten that New York City is one of the world's mega metropolis' in which the expense to live is enormous compared to other cities. It is the most expensive city in which to live in the United States. Yet, the people who live here and work here sustain the city, many scrapping by with insufficient incomes but not a lack of New York City spirit and fervor wherein they contribute in community endeavors that make this city whole. This includes service on community boards, on pubic school committees, in places of worship and anywhere New Yorkers in need are located. Where the rent is being paid in other parts of the state, perhaps where the rent costs 50% to almost 65% less than in New York City-- there are those local issues to be understood and not diminished.
In New York City, the truth is the people are hurting! The people are anxious! The people are on long food lines and on long COVID-19 testing lines. The people aren't yelling about the rent-- yet. It's a pandemic. There is an eviction moratorium. For what the people do not have control over there are some things the people do. Please do not add insult to injury. Legislators, please do what is necessary about eliminating the rent threat that hovers over many thousands of New Yorkers. Yes, New Yorkers are resilient but thousands losing their homes at once will not be a circumstance in which there will be quiet tolerance.
Finally, in both of state houses in New York, Democrats have the majority. The people chose you. You work for the people. Please do the right thing regarding the rent, politics aside in 2021! Do not be complicit with the corporations that do not care. There is much on the table for all involved. And please don't let one individual stop the goodwill the people expect of you. as a body, to be denied.
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