Lena Melendez and her husband, Amado, have had a stressful two weeks.
“I’m scared of getting the Coronavirus,” Lena told me.
Earlier this month, the Washington Heights residents stopped driving for Uber because Lena, who suffers from diabetes, was worried about her health.
They initially thought they would get by living off the income from Amado’s part-time job at a restaurant.
But it all went from bad to worse after the restaurant slashed staff and laid off Amado.
Now, they’re worried about how they’re going to pay their rent and other bills, which were already piling up.
“We’ve had to sit down and make calls to all our creditors,” said Lena, who told us she and her husband have $11,000 in credit card debt.
Their story is similar to those of so many New Yorkers, who in just the last two weeks have lost their financial footing as their lives were thrown into turmoil.
Tiffany Khan was on maternity leave when she found out last week she was being laid off from her job doing test prep.
Her partner, Damien, then lost one of his two part-time jobs.
“Rent is due in a few days, as you know,” Khan told us. “We can make that rental payment, but the question is what happens after April.”
The government is offering help through the stimulus package, unemployment benefits and a 90-day moratorium on evictions.
In just the last week, the Metropolitan Council on Housing has seen a huge jump in calls from people concerned about how they’ll pay rent.
“For the moment, for the duration of the crisis, they will not be evicted,” said Ava Farkas, the group’s executive director. “And that’s really important for tenants to know.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris has introduced legislation for a 90-day rent freeze.
“If somebody can’t pay their rent today, they’re certainly not going to be able to pay three times that rent in three months,” Gianaris told us.
People like Lena and Amado Melendez worry about what will happen if relief doesn’t come quickly.
“We’re going to be forced to choose between our families and health or on how to pay rent,” Lena said.
For more information on Met Council Tenant Rights, please contact 212-979-0611.