COVID-19 Updates and Resources

last updated 3/30/2020 9:00 am

Fair Housing

 

In light of the reactions to COVID-19, fair housing groups have seen an increase in complaints related to national origin. It is illegal for a housing provider to deny housing, impose different rules or requirements, or attempt to evict a person because they are from a country affected by Covid-19 (e.g., China, Italy) or perceived to be from that country. 

 

Fair housing laws can protect individuals who are infected with Covid-19 or perceived to be infected. Fair housing laws can also protect individuals who are caring for or providing healthcare services to others infected with Covid-19 or perceived to be infected. 

 

Fair housing groups have also seen an increase in complaints related to disability. Individuals with disabilities may be in need of reasonable accommodations related to COVID-19. Tenants may experience increasing difficulty in getting in touch with housing providers to request reasonable accommodations. 

 

Older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions are particularly vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19. Fair housing issues related to age and disability could arise.  

 

As people are asked to stay home, an increase in domestic violence could occur. Policies or practices that discriminate against women because of their status as domestic violence survivors can be unlawful. 

 

If you believe you have been the victim of housing discrimination, please call us at 315-471-0420. Although our offices are closed, staff are working remotely and will return your call.  

 

Housing

 

Renters: Landlords must have a court order for evictions, but during this health crisis, all courts that hear eviction cases are closed. The moratorium applies to both residential tenants (in all types of housing) and commercial tenants. There will be no evictions of any kind, for anyone, as long as the moratorium is in place. The moratorium applies to all pre-existing orders. They have been suspended and you cannot be evicted. Any court dates for eviction cases will be postponed, and the court will mail you a notice with your new court date. Right now, you are still obligated to pay rent. The moratorium just means that your landlord can’t sue you for nonpayment right now, but once the moratorium is lifted, they will be allowed to. We are working with the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition on possible reliefs. On Friday, March 20, the Governor issued an order declaring an eviction and foreclosure moratorium for 90 days, or until mid-June.

 

Homeowners: Mortgage borrowers impacted by COVID-19 should contact their mortgage servicer to determine whether they are eligible for any of the mortgage relief programs described below.

 

The New York State Department of Financial Services has issued a new directive to New York State mortgage servicers to provide 90-day mortgage relief to mortgage borrowers impacted by the novel coronavirus.

The directive includes:

  • Waiving mortgage payments based on financial hardship;

  • No negative reporting to credit bureaus;

  • Grace period for loan modification;

  • No late payment fees or online payment fees; and

  • Postponing or suspending foreclosures.

 

On March 18th, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) suspended foreclosures and evictions for homeowners and tenants of single-family homes with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for at least 60 days (until May 17, 2020). The order prohibits new foreclosure actions and suspends all foreclosure actions currently in process. 

 

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has implemented a number of mortgage relief measures for single-family homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The measures include: 

  • A suspension on all foreclosure sales and evictions for at least 60 days (until May 17, 2020). [The suspension does not apply to homes that servicers have deemed vacant or abandoned].

  • Payment forbearance for up to 12 months for borrowers impacted by COVID-19.

  • Credit bureau reporting of past due payments of borrowers in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to the COVID-19 crisis is suspended.

  • Homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees.

  • After forbearance, a servicer must work with the borrower on a permanent plan to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification.

 

To help keep renters in multifamily properties in their homes, the FHFA is also offering mortgage forbearance to multifamily property owners that have a performing multifamily mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. To be eligible for forbearance, the property owner must suspend all evictions for renters unable to pay rent due to the COVID-19 health emergency. The eviction suspensions must remain in place for the entire time that the property owner remains in forbearance. 

 

Syracuse Housing Authority

Syracuse Housing Authority is closed to walk-ins and appointments are strictly limited to emergency only. Property management offices are open, but available by phone only. Leasing functions will be completed through a combination of phone, mail, and/or email. Deadlines for annual and interim certifications, inspections, and other leasing-related functions will be relaxed. SHA staff will only enter housing units for emergency repairs. Non-emergency maintenance work is postponed. Daily status checks in high-rise buildings and security patrol services will continue. All resident activities have been suspended. 

 

Utilities

Major utilities will suspend service shutoffs to households during the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 25, the Public Service Commission approved orders postponing rate increases for nearly 2 million customers of New York American Water and National Grid upstate that were scheduled to go into effect on April 1st. 

 

Health Insurance and Services

New York State is encouraging everyone who feels sick to use telehealth services before going to the doctor’s office, urgent care or the emergency room. As such, the State Department of Financial Services will require insurance companies to waive co-pays for telehealth visits.

 

New York will make a Special Enrollment Period available to New Yorkers during which eligible individuals will be able to enroll in insurance coverage through NY State of Health, New York's official health plan Marketplace, and directly through insurers. The open enrollment period for coverage in 2020 had previously ended on February 7, 2020. Individuals who enroll in Qualified Health Plans through NY State of Health or directly through insurers between March 16 and April 15, 2020 will have coverage effective starting April 1, 2020. Individuals who are eligible for other NY State of Health programs – Medicaid, Essential Plan and Child Health Plus – can enroll year-round. The Salvation Army Navigators can help, by phone, anyone in NYS apply for Medicaid, Child Health Plus or a Qualified Health Plan. Services are free and confidential.  Please call 315-479-1155 to schedule a phone appointment. 

 

Child Care Subsidies

New York State has informed local social services districts that they can expand the child care services they provide to families affected by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Districts may select from the following options: extend the eligibility period, expand the definition of a child needing protective services, expand the number of allowable absences, expand the number of program closures, extend eligibility up to 85% of the state median income level, waive family shares, and make other requests related to eligibility and/or administration of the child care subsidy program.

Every county is different, so please contact your local Department of Social Services for more information.

 

SNAP

For the certification periods ending 3/31/20, 4/30/20 and 5/31/20, a three (3) month extension of SNAP or TA/MA/SNAP benefits has been approved for cases throughout the State.

 

Unemployment

Governor Cuomo signed an Executive Order waiving the 7-day waiting period for workers in shared work programs to claim unemployment insurance for those that have been put out of work by COVID-19. 

 

The new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security “CARES” Act expands unemployment coverage and includes:

  • A temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. 

  • A provision providing for an additional $600 per week unemployment payment for up to four months. 

  • An additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to help those who remain unemployed after weeks of state unemployment are no longer available.

More details on these programs can be found here.

 

New York State Sick Leave & Paid Family Leave

Governor Cuomo has guaranteed workers job protection and financial compensation in the event they, or their minor dependent child, are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19.

As always, Paid Family Leave can also be used to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

 

Some employers in New York State are now required to provide at least five days of job protected, paid sick leave to employees who need to take leave because they or their minor dependent child are under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. The amount of paid sick leave an employer is required to provide depends on the number of employees they have and the employer’s net annual income.

  • Employer size 1-10 employees and net income over $1 million: Your employer must provide at least five (5) paid sick days.

  • Employer size 11-99 employees: Your employer must provide at least five (5) paid sick days.

  • Employer size 100 or more employees: Your employer must provide at least fourteen (14) sick days.

  • Public employers of any size: Your employer must provide at least fourteen (14) sick days.

  • Employer size 1-10 employees and net income less than $1 million: Your employer is not required to provide new paid sick days. Instead use Paid Family Leave and disability benefits.

 

Federal Student Loans

All federal student loan payments have been halted until September 30th. You do not need to apply for this pause, but you should check with your loan servicer to be sure that your loans qualify. For more details on this program, including how it impacts those in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the New York Times has put together a question and answer page here.


 

New York State Debt Collection

New York will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection

 

Stimulus Payments

The CARES Act provides one-time recovery checks of $1,200 for all individuals with adjusted gross income up to $75,000; $112,500 for head of household. All married couples, with adjusted gross income up to $150,000 who file a joint return, are eligible for $2,400. Those amounts increase by $500 for every child. The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 a taxpayer’s income exceeds the phase-out threshold. The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $136,500 for head of household filers, and $198,000 for joint filers. A calculator to estimate your payment can be found here and more details on the payment can be found here

 

Miscellaneous Financial Matters

The Governor has also asked the Department of Financial Services to instruct state chartered banks to waive ATM fees, late fees, overdraft fees and fees for credit cards to help lessen the financial hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic on New Yorkers.

 

The deadline to file and pay New York State and Federal income taxes is now July 15, 2020.

 

The CARES Act also waives the 10-percent early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes.

 

Orders of Protection

All temporary orders of protection have been extended.

 

Centro Buses

Centro buses are temporarily waiving all fares. For more information and to access schedules, visit the Centro site here.

 

Local Legal Services

CNY Fair Housing is closed for in-person services, but is providing assistance via telephone and online. Please call (315) 471-0420 or email info@cnyfairhousing.org for assistance.

 

Legal Services of Central New York is only providing services online or via telephone

 

If you need legal help complete an online intake at www.lscny.org/intake or call your local LSCNY office.

Syracuse: (315) 703-6500

Binghamton: (607) 231-5988

Utica: (315) 793-7108

Cortland: (607) 231-5988

Oswego: (315) 532-6900

Watertown: (315) 955-6700

Oneonta: (607) 231-5988

 

Volunteer Lawyers Project’s office and in-person clinic are closed. However, you can call (315) 471-3409 or visit www.onvlp.org/intakes for assistance. 

 

Hiscock Legal Aid Society’s office is providing services remotely through telephone and email only. Courts are still open to hear emergency custody matters, orders of protection and emergency child protective proceedings. If you are seeking an order of protection, have an urgent, emergency custody, visitation, or child protective matter and you already have an open file with HLA, please reach out to your attorney directly. If you are not already assigned an attorney from their office and are seeking assistance, call 315-218-0141. Staff can be reached at the following numbers:

 

Appeals (315) 218-0168

Divorce and UIB (315) 218-0141

Family Court (315) 218-0198

Foreclosure (315) 218-0145

Immigration (English) (315) 218-0196

Immigration (Spanish) (315) 218-0152

Landlord Tenant (315) 218-0141

Parole (315) 218-0153

General Intake (315) 218-0141

General Intake (Spanish) (315) 218-0105

 

See https://hlalaw.org/ for details. 

 

Resources

Information about other changes and programs in response to COVID-19 can be found here.

 

New York State COVID-19 Hotline

1-888-364-3065

 

COVID-19 ASL Hotline

Individuals may contact the ASL Now hotline anytime Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST either by visiting CSD (Communication Service for the Deaf) and clicking “ASL Now” or by dialing 833-682-7630 on any videophone (VP).

 

New York State Emotional Support Hotline

1-844-863-9314

 

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Resources for Onondaga, Oswego, Lewis, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence counties

 

Onondaga County Senior Citizen, Healthcare Worker, and Adult Nutrition Hotline 

315-218-1987

 

Onondaga County DSS COVID-19 Page

http://www.ongov.net/dss/

 

Cayuga County DSS COVID-19 Page

https://www.cayugacounty.us/260/Social-Services

Phone: (315) 471-0420

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