New York State has enacted a number of temporary emergency measures designed to assist individuals who are financially suffering during this time. New York State’s Department of Financial Services has enacted protections for insurance policy holders (auto, home, renters, etc.) who have difficulty paying premiums due to COVID-related financial hardships. These regulations include waiver of late fees for premiums and prohibitions on submitting negative information to credit reporting bureaus for late or missed payments. Additionally, if an individual can show that they are unable to pay a premium due to a COVID-related hardship, they are eligible to repay that amount over a 12-month period rather than having to pay the entire amount all at once. Individuals interested in this relief should contact their insurance carriers for more information.
New York has created waivers and special eligibility protections for public assistance for people who are affected by COVID-19. This includes cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance, Family Assistance and Safety Net programs, Medicaid health insurance, and SNAP (food stamp) benefits. To apply for these programs, please contact your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office by phone or electronically (see section on status of government offices for contact information). Alternatively, you can apply for benefits online here: https://otda.ny.gov/programs/applications/2921.pdf. Due to COVID-19 and the unseasonably cold spring, the HEAP home heating assistance program has been extended until June 30th. Contact your local HEAP office for details. Contact information for HEAP offices can be found at https://otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/contacts/. Online applications for state benefits can be made at myBenefits.ny.gov.
Additionally, individuals who lose their health insurance through job loss can apply for health insurance on NY State of Health (including private plans and Medicaid benefits, if qualified) at any time, not just during the special enrollment period.
New York State has also enacted a number of protections to ensure that people will have access to basic services during the outbreak. Governor Cuomo has ordered that utility services (heat, electricity, and water) be prohibited from shutting off your service due to nonpayment until further notice. This means that your utilities cannot be shut off for the time being, even if you can’t afford to pay for them. New York State has also put a moratorium on eviction proceedings and pending eviction warrants until further notice, lasting at least until August 20, 2020. This means that your landlord cannot force you to leave for nonpayment of rent until evictions are resumed by order of the Governor or the courts. Landlords can send eviction notices to tenants in the mail; however, they are prohibited from beginning eviction actions in court until at least August 20, 2020. Tenants may not be evicted from a property without a court proceeding. Landlords are also prohibited by NYS law from engaging in any “self help” eviction methods, such as locking a tenant out of their property, removing the tenant’s belongings from the property, or disconnecting utility services. The prohibition on self-help eviction methods is permanent in New York.
Landlords are prohibited from charging late fees for rent that is not paid for any rent due dates that fall between March 20, 2020 and August 20, 2020. Tenants may also use their security deposit to pay back rent, and will be allowed to repay the deposit over time. If you wish to use your security deposit for this purpose, it must be by written agreement (paper or email). The repayment of the security deposit will be in monthly payments of 1/12th the amount of the security deposit until it is repaid in full, and these payments cannot become due and owing for at least 90 days after the security deposit is used toward back rent. Further, if your landlord’s mortgage on a rental property is Federally-backed (including HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, rural program vouchers, or VAWA programs), the landlord is prevented from commencing eviction proceedings against you for 120 days from the date on which the Federal CARES Act (stimulus program) was enacted (March 27).
New York State has ordered that all banks suspend mortgage payments for 90 days (until at least June 20) for those facing a financial hardship, and has additionally ordered that no new foreclosure actions be commenced. This applies to all mortgage loans, including conventional, FHA, VA, HUD, USDA, and any other type of home mortgage. New York State has also ordered that all overdraft fees, ATM fees, and credit card late fees be waived until at least June 20.
Additionally, HUD, FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which together comprise the majority of mortgages in this country) have announced suspensions of mortgage foreclosure sales and evictions during the COVID-19 outbreak for the next 60 days. Even if your loan is serviced by a private bank (example, if you make payments to an entity such as Wells Fargo or M&T) your loan may be covered by these new rules, since FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD loans are issued through private banks. FHA loans are also prohibited from commencing mortgage foreclosure actions during this time. Additionally, individuals experiencing a financial hardship related to COVID-19 can ask for a 12-month forbearance on mortgage payments from all federally-guaranteed mortgage programs (HUD, FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). You do not need to be diagnosed with COVID-19 to qualify; a hardship such as losing your job will qualify for this program. During this forbearance period, lenders are not allowed to report changes in status or nonpayment to credit reporting agencies. They are also not allowed to accrue late fees during this period, and must work with borrowers to establish an affordable repayment plan once the forbearance ends. Mortgage borrowers who are interested in a forbearance or other hardship relief should contact their mortgage servicer (the company that they communicate with most often, usually the one to which they send payments).
Although not required to do so by the government, Charter/Spectrum has pledged not to turn off internet services for nonpayment during this crisis situation. Charter/Spectrum has also offered free internet services for 60 days to households that do not already have them if the household has students (K-12 or college) who are home from school due to COVID-19 school closures. Charter/Spectrum will waive installation and setup charges for this service, but the household must cancel the service within 60 days to avoid charges after the 60 day period is over.
The New York State Attorney General has suspended debt payments on medical debt and student loans owed to the state for 30 days. If you owe money to a state hospital or are delinquent on a student loan debt, and if that debt has been referred to NYS for debt collection, you do not have to make any payments for 30 days beginning March 17, 2020.
If your driver’s license, non-driver ID, or vehicle registration is set to expire after March 1, the DMV has temporarily suspended the expiration of these documents. You can still renew them online if possible, but you can also wait to renew them until physical DMV offices re-open without penalty. If your motor vehicle inspection expired on March 1 or later, the expiration date has been extended. No end date has yet been specified for these extensions.