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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of exacerbating racial and class divides by suspending mortgage payments during the coronavirus pandemic but not extending the same moratorium to renters.
“If you called for a suspension or moratorium on mortgage payments, then we should also call for that same treatment on rent payments," Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday 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.”
The liberal pol who represents hard-hit Bronx and Queens has been calling for a freeze on rent payments and warning that hundreds of thousands of people are going to miss their rent payments April 1, setting off an economic downward spiral that will hit the banking industry.
In addressing the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus, Cuomo already issued a 90-day suspension on mortgage payments. He didn't suspend rent payments, however, but instead offered a suspension on evictions for 90 days, though renters will still be on the hook for missed payments.
"I think our policy answers it," Cuomo said Monday. "You cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent. It's not that you won't owe rent at one time, right, because you signed a contract. Even the people to whom you pay the rent have to pay the rent, right, and they have expenses. So, no evictions for nonpayment of rent and then we'll see where we are and we'll see how long this goes on."
But Ocasio-Cortez said the governor doesn't go far enough. She framed her remarks in the context of wealth and race disparities that have been exposed during the COVID-19 response.
"There's absolutely … racial and class inequities baked into the crisis," she told WNYC. "If you are able to stay home. You are a privileged person in this moment."
She said the essential workers who can't stay home -- the delivery drivers, grocery store workers and food preparers — "are overwhelmingly lower-income. They're black. They're brown... and they still have to pay rent tomorrow."
Ocasio-Cortez also accused President Trump of not embracing science, failing to secure national emergency supplies and moving too slowly.
“People aren't just dying of coronavirus. They're dying of incompetence," Ocasio-Cortez said. "...And so this isn't just a viral pandemic, it’s a pandemic of a lack of leadership.”