QUEENS, N.Y. - The city is slowly emerging from the pandemic, but it doesn’t feel that way for Allilsa Fernandez.
“Absolutely not," the resident of Jamaica, Queens said chuckling. Seconds later, she took a deep breath and said, "I’ve struggled.”
What You Need To Know
- While her income plunged, Allilsa Fernandez says her landlord raised the rent, wouldn't accept partial payment and started eviction proceedings
- Metropolitan Council on Housing says more than a million people in the state have lost income and are living on the brink of eviction
- The NYU Furman Center says city landlords have evicted a total of 9 tenants from April 2020 through February 2021, compared to 15,441 in the same period a year earlier
Her part-time job at a hospital is to help people with mental health issues, but because of the pandemic she’s wrestling with her own problems.
"There’s times I’ve picked up the phone to do my job and I’ve cried before and after those calls," she said.
After losing a full time job last year, her income dropped to $1,000 a month from $3,000. Her roommate lost her job completely. But while their income plunged, their landlord raised the rent.
"I said, 'Well, here’s what we have.' And he said, 'No. I want everything or nothing,'" Fernandez explained. "That was devastating to have a landlord who's not even wiling to accept anything or negotiate."
She says he started eviction proceedings, but because of the moratoriums in place she has been able to keep the roof over her head.
“I honestly don’t know where I would be. It’s scary to me, honestly,” said Fernandez. “At the time I didn’t know how I was going to eat. I actually went to bed hungry.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer used Fernandez’s story to urge colleagues to pass the sweeping COVID relief bill, which included billions of dollars for tenants to pay back rent.
“Am I going to eat, and we’re supposed to sit here and do nothing? We’re supposed to say to Ms. Fernandez and so many like her we’re not giving you the help that you need,” Schumer said on March 5 on the Senate floor.
The non-profit group, the Metropolitan Council on Housing, says more than a million people in the state have lost income and are living on the brink of eviction, saved only because of eviction moratoriums which began last March. The effect has been dramatic. According to the NYU Furman Center, landlords in the city have evicted a total of nine tenants from April 2020 through February 2021, compared to 15,441 in the same period a year earlier.
“The eviction moratorium has allowed me to be able to stay safe throughout the pandemic,” said Fernandez.
She tries not to venture far from her home because she has underlying health issues and hasn’t gotten clearance from her doctor to get the vaccine.
She's hoping state lawmakers and the governor distribute that federal emergency rental assistance soon and her landlord accepts it and stops her eviction before the current state moratorium expires May 1.
“Where am I going to go especially being high risk where am I going to turn or who am I going to turn to?” she asked.
In some cases the moratoriums are pushing landlords to the brink of financial disaster. We'll explore that in the next part of our series.