Sunday, August 1, 2021

Many of our students will soon be homeless. It will exclusively be Andrew Cuomo's Fault.

They both lead poorer states and are both newer to the job but a Republican governor from Texas and a conservative governor from Virginia are more committed to helping poor and working class families remain in their homes than is the governor from the state of New York. 

You should allow a quick moment for that to sink in.

Last April, Congress established a $46 Billion fund intended to help provide rent relief for the nation's renters and landlords. The monies were divided among all 50 states with the expectation that they would be distributed to the people who needed the assistance. 

So far, Virginia and Texas have distributed a combined $600 million of these funds (here). New York, which received $2.4 billion for distribution to its renters and landlords,  has distributed less than $100,000 (here).

The remaining $2.3 million -of real money intended to help real people- has yet to be touched.  Since April, as many as 160,000 New Yorkers have applied for this aid. The State of New York, lead by King Andrew Cuomo himself, has approved only 4,800 of those applications (here). 

According to Saturday's New York Times  this man's screw ups are about to disrupt the lives of as many as 1/2 of my students next month:

A nationwide moratorium on residential evictions is set to expire on Saturday after a last-minute effort by the Biden administration to win an extension failed, putting hundreds of thousands of tenants at risk of losing shelter ... Running out of time and desperate to head off a possible wave of evictions, the White House abruptly shifted course on Thursday, throwing responsibility to Congress and prompting a frenzied — and ultimately unsuccessful — rescue operation by Democrats in the House on Friday.

With no rental assistance from Albany and no moratorium in place, many students in NYC will be affected by this particular failure -and those effects will be harsh. Their lives will be turned upside down. Their addresses will change. Some will find their way to homeless shelters and all will be in a NYC database for alternative housing. The underpinnings of everything a child understands about stability will be rattled. And why? Because those funds never made it to where they were supposed to go. 

That was the governor's job. That was only the governor's job (no one else could do it) and it was the governor's only job (they literally gave him $2.4 billion and said "here. Go hep your people). And he failed. 

As many as eleven million Americans are facing potential evictions -soon. This all stems from the economic downturn that resulted from the pandemic, of course. But, if you say this outloud to yourself: eleven million human beings- you may realize that is a very large potential catastrophe. And, while some states (including Cuomo's New York) have extended their own state-wide moratoriums, the Supreme Court has clearly ruled that any future prohibition against evictions will be a matter for the US Congress to pick up (here). In American, all law (that's all law. Not just the law that you like) operates under a section of the Constitution referred to as the 'Contract Clause'. Essentially, the clause prevents states from enacting laws that violate the US Constitution. And when there is no law on the books, and Congress has not yet acted (as is the case here), then a state has little power to change it. (Feel free to read all about Gibbons v. Ogden until your hearts' content).  The easy truth is this: Sooner or later, some landlord -one who hasn't been paid in well over a year- is going to sue NY's special moratorium extension and that person is going to win. 

This makes the distribution of the relief funds that I mentioned earlier absolutely crucial -both for landlords (who would stand to receive the relief) and for renters (who would otherwise be "in good standing" with their landlord when the moment of the moratoriums ending finally does come). There are only two possible scenarios once the moratoriums end: With the distribution of funds, the renters and landlords will have a space to talk about a new lease. 

But without the distribution of funds, the landlord will be free to evict and find new tenants. And please try not to forget that they will also be free to harass, or turn off the water or fail to repair or to engage in any of the normal tactics that a landlord is known to use when he or she wants a tenant to leave. That is what an end to the moratorium will actually mean to actual people who have not actually received rental assistance. 

Here in New York City, most of the middle class and well-to-do students huddle together in their own special communities of schools which have been created just for them. Thankfully, these children don't feel too much of the whiplash that life in NYC can offer. The end result will be that much of their lives won't be effected at all when September comes. These are the types of schools that the newspapers like to visit. So, if you read the news, you may be led into believing that everything is fine. 

Other children, however, tend to be exposed to all of the life's little 'subtle demonisms' (apologies for the Melville reference). This may include known issues like illegal guns, violence, food or home insecurity. But it also includes some lesser understood experiences; ones which tend to cause tons and tons of trauma but are hardly discussed. Experiences like looking forward to having last night's rice and beans for breakfast (because it's nice to have a meal! Isn't it?), or having to go to the corner store to bring home empty boxes because your family is getting ready for a move (only they have no answers as to where) or having to face your peers in school wearing some pretty weather-beaten and very used clothes. All of these issues cause a special type of trauma. Sometimes that type of trauma is written about. Sometimes it is not. 

Only a classroom teacher has been cursed to simultaneously understand and experience this trauma as it unfolds in real time. Children do not always understand what they are experiencing. And the front office will never have to actually contend with the minute-by-minute fallout from it. Only we in the classroom have been blessed to both experience the fallout from this trauma on a day-to-day basis and to understand the full scope of just what the hell is happening to our students. Only us. We have to deal with this mess and live with it every single day as we work with these children in their capacity of being a student. 

And lets' say you're not like me (and as I've written in the past, that's okay too. Be here for the paycheck. Just be a pro). In that case, you should know that your work life is about to get a lot more challenging and difficult. Do you know what it's like to teach 30 children when 15 of them have moved into a shelter setting or out of the city district and had to travel two hours to reach your do now? Imagine having to actually teach Herman Melville to 30 children when 15 of them are not sure where they will sleep that night. Or eat. Or wear new clothes. Or think about their dreams. Or even get some damn peace and quiet.  Don't forget, now; the middle class and well-to-do are already huddled together in their own sheltered bubbles over at their own sheltered schools so this will feel amplified. That number -half- is NOT an over exaggeration. Whole schools of children will completely miss this trauma. But whole schools of children will be bombarded by it.  

This one incompetent blunder will upend the lives of tens of thousands of families in the city (and beyond, of course). And why? Because, despite having received billions of dollars in his pocket to help these children remain in their homes, Andrew Cuomo did not.

Now Cuomo has announced that he is overhauling the system so people can get the help they need. Don't forget, it's his own system (the one which he was responsible for in the first place). I don't suppose being attacked by Chuck Schumer is much fun. I do suppose he got embarrassed in the newspaper last week and is trying to look good for the papers. But it will be the same screw up governor. And it will not be fixed. 

But Cuomo has already had three full months to start approving applications and writing checks to provide stability for needy families. 

And the national moratorium will end in less than four weeks. in NYC, evictions will take six months. But forced moves, where tenants are pressured to leave, will begin right away. Rest assured, you, and your students, will feel the fallout before September ends.