Bill Morris in COVID-19 on August 6, 2020
On May 22, with New York City reeling from the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer participated in a video conference call with leaders of the city’s co-op and condo community. Among those on the call were the executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums (CNYC), leaders of the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council, the head of the Builders’ Realty Institute and the publisher of Habitat magazine. Hundreds more viewed the call from their homes.
The subject of the call was a new $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief bill crafted by Democrats in the House of Representatives that was ready for introduction in the U.S. Senate. Speaking from his Park Slope co-op, Schumer delivered the welcome news that the bill would make co-ops eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides forgivable loans to businesses that keep employees on the payroll during the pandemic. A companion bill, Schumer said, would make condos eligible. The Small Business Administration, which Schumer derided as “incompetent and stingy,” had decreed earlier that the loans were not available to real-estate interests, including housing cooperatives and condominium associations. That ruling had infuriated many co-op and condo advocates. Now their fury turned to cautious optimism.
After the call ended, Schumer told Habitat: “The PPP is critical for many housing co-ops to weather this crisis and maintain their buildings and employees – as member-owners struggle to pay fees. I will continue to fight for expanding PPP eligibility to cover housing co-ops.”
The optimism generated by Schumer’s support did not last long. The Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill got a chilly reception from the Republican majority in the Senate, who proposed a far more modest $1 trillion package. Many Republicans opposed continuing federal relief at any level. Negotiations faltered, and at the end of July the legislative impasse led to the end of supplemental $600 weekly payments for 30 million unemployed workers and the end of an eviction moratorium for renters. The PPP payments are scheduled to end on Saturday, Aug. 8. And the fate of Schumer’s plan to make co-ops and condos eligible for the next round of forgivable PPP loans had slipped into deep limbo.
Democrats and Trump administration officials were scheduled to resume working toward a compromise bill on Thursday at 5 p.m., but there was little cause for optimism. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., accused Republicans of not giving “a damn” about those in need. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of lying. And Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said the two sides “trillions of dollars apart.”
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