Two New York State Assembly members have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday's special session where legislators voted to extend the pandemic-related eviction and foreclosure moratorium, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Friday. Both of them had been vaccinated.
Charles Fall, a Democrat who represents New York’s 61st Assembly District, covering the North Shore of Staten Island, and Inez Dickens, another Democrat who represents the 70th district in Manhattan, are currently quarantining, according to Heastie, who said he learned of their diagnoses earlier Friday.
"We are now in the process of reaching out to other members and staff that they may have been in contact with on Wednesday during session in Albany. Those individuals are being encouraged to quarantine until they can get a COVID test," Heastie said as he wished the two Democrats a speedy recovery. "This is a terrible reminder that we are not yet out of the woods of this pandemic. I encourage everyone to stay vigilant and careful to protect yourself and those around you."
The state Legislature was called to return for an "extraordinary session" Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul to pass the legislation, which puts evictions on hold until Jan. 15.
Hochul has been on the ground responding to the devastation wrought by Ida. Her office didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the cases.
New York's previous eviction moratorium, which included foreclosure protections for property owners, expired Tuesday.
In an Aug. 12 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court nixed part of the moratorium that allowed tenants to pause eviction proceedings simply by filing a form declaring they’d had a COVID-related financial hardship or that moving in a pandemic would prove a health risk. The court said that landlords should have the ability to challenge those hardships in court.
New York is poised to change how the moratorium works in light of that ruling. Landlords will be able to challenge hardship declarations and direct judges to require tenants with hardships to apply for rental assistance.
Hochul has said the legislation will stand up to legal scrutiny. The Senate passed it 38-19.
The bill passed Wednesday also sets aside $150 million more in rental assistance for tenants above the income threshold and for small landlords whose tenants have left the unit. Another $25 million will cover legal counsel for tenants unable to afford counsel in eviction proceedings.
Separately, the legislation will also allow state and local bodies to hold meetings remotely without allowing members of the public to attend in person.