KEY POINTS

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 19 suspended mortgage payments for 90 days for borrowers facing financial hardships
  • He didn't suspend rent payments, however
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says Cuomo's decision smacks of inequality and racism

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, denounced New York governor Andrew Cuomo's recent decision to suspend mortgage payments in the state as one that rewards the rich and does nothing to alleviate the plight of poor New Yorkers struggling to pay their rents.

The fiery Democratic socialist, who remains wedded to her core principles of Medicare for all and the Green New Deal, said Cuomo's decision to suspend mortgage payments but not rental payments during the COVID-19 pandemic is tantamount to giving “preferential treatment” to New York's rich that own the buildings rented by the poor.

“If you called for a suspension or moratorium on mortgage payments, then we should also call for that same treatment on rent payments,” said Ocasio-Cortez on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” 

“We’re kind of creating a class and race issue. We’re essentially rewarding  and offering preferential treatment to landowners and folks who are more wealthy, and we’re not offering that same kind of relief to renters,” Ocasio-Cortez noted that from an economic perspective, "it’s not responsible to ignore this problem.”

She has a problem with Cuomo's announcement on March 19 suspending mortgage payments for 90 days for borrowers facing financial hardships (such as losing their job, for example). Cuomo said eligibility for the moratorium will be “based on financial hardship.”

“This is a real-life benefit,” said Cuomo. “People are under tremendous economic pressure. Making a mortgage payment can be one of the number one stressors. Eliminating that stressor for 90 days, I think, will go a long way.”

Cuomo temporarily postponed or suspended foreclosures. He also ordered a waiver of fees for ATMs, credit cards and overdrafts. Taken together, these moves are intended to provide financial relief for New Yorkers crushed by the economic pain inflicted by the pandemic.

Cuomo earlier announced New York will also halt collection of student loan debt until at least April 15. The halt will also apply to the collection of medical debt.

Ocasio-Cortez said these decisions by Cuomo don’t go far enough to help poor New Yorkers. Cuomo's decision also smacks of racism and a bias against the poor.

“There’s absolutely ... racial and class inequities baked into the crisis,” she contended. “If you are able to stay home, you are a privileged person in this moment.”

Ocasio-Cortez noted New Yorkers such as grocery store workers, delivery drivers and those working in food prep that have to go to a job, “are overwhelmingly lower-income. They’re black. They’re brown ... and they still have to pay rent tomorrow.”

US Senator Bernie Sanders, shown campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, raised more than any Democrat in the White House race in 2019, but trailed President Donald Trump Sen. Bernie Sanders, shown campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, raised more than any Democrat in the White House race in 2019, but trailed President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP / Robyn Beck