Guidance on Coronavirus Resources and Warnings about Consumer Scams

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Guidance on Coronavirus Resources and
Warnings about Consumer Scams

As New York continues to experience an outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it is imperative that individuals are prepared and informed during this time. In addition to health information, New Yorkers must know about their rights, the resources available to them, and be mindful about potential consumer scams related to COVID-19.

You can find more information on resources, rights, and potential scams from the drop down menu below:

Consumer Protection Tips & Scam Alerts

Bogus Medical Treatments

Beware of Phishing Attempts Purporting Emergency COVID-19 Information

For Healthcare Workers and Providers

Unemployment Insurance Fraud

Tips to Protect New Yorkers' Privacy and Combat Revenge Porn

Bogus Medical Treatments

Beware of scammers selling bogus medical treatments and learn the facts about the coronavirus. Stay informed about the disease by visiting the websites of the:

  • Report retailers that appear to take unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services that are vital to the health, safety, or welfare of consumers for an unconscionably excessive price. Report such incidents to the OAG.
  • Beware of Phishing Attempts Purporting Emergency COVID-19 Information

    There are multiple reports of scammers attempting to use concern about the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity for phishing (e.g. an attempt to get an individual to click a link in order to steal passwords, install malware, or otherwise gain access to sensitive information). Individuals should remain vigilant when receiving emails or text messages received claiming to have information about COVID-19 – especially from organizations which they did not sign up to receive alerts from. Some phishing attempts may purport to be from a health authority like the World Health Organization, from someone that makes promises about miracle cures, or asks for donations or other actions. These types of emails may be phishing attempts, where an attacker sends you a message that looks innocent but may contain malware or a link designed to steal an account password. Please review the OAG page regarding phishing for more guidance.

    For Healthcare Workers and Providers

    If you work for a healthcare provider, hospital, or other organization within the health supply chain, you may see more advanced phishing attempts. Apply the same suggestions described in the link above to any outside emails received. Be mindful that you may be at higher risk for phishing attempts. Some scams that have been seen in the wild include:

    • Emails purporting to be from the Centers for Disease Control providing information on treating COVID-19 that contain booby trapped PDFs.
    • An email received by hospital staff saying that important deliveries have been stalled to that hospital and requiring the user click on a link that actually executes malicious code.

    Below is an example of a COVID 19 specific phishing email you may receive.

    Example of Below is an example of a COVID 19 specific phishing email you may receive.

    Unemployment Insurance Fraud

    The Attorney General’s Office has become aware that some individuals are filing false unemployment claims using social security numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII) belonging to others.

    How do I report identity theft related to unemployment insurance?

    If you believe you are the victim of identity theft related to unemployment insurance, including someone filing a false claim using your personal information, you can report the fraud to the New York State Department of Labor by submitting an online form, calling toll-free hotline at (888) 598-2077, or by mail. The best way to contact the New York State Department of Labor is to fill out the online form.

    In addition, you can take steps to protect your credit by filing an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    Because this scam is perpetrated by gaining access to and using victims’ PII, individuals should be aware of the potential for identity theft. Identity theft is the unlawful use of an individual's PII to, for example, establish credit, make purchases, apply for loans, or, as in this case, to seek unemployment benefits. Click here for more specific information about how to protect your identity.

    Visit the Attorney General’s Office for more information about how to protect your identity.

    Tips to help protect New Yorkers from invasions of privacy and minimize the risks of falling victim to revenge porn:

    Do not include identifying details in any intimate image or chat:

    • Exclude your face and any identifying features, such as a unique tattoo or birthmark, in intimate images. Some users can keep their face off-screen in such images, while others can utilize a blurring or cropping feature.
    • Exclude identifiable information in your image’s background, including anything with your name or your employer’s name or logo on it.
    • Exclude identifiable information from your profile, such as your email address or the handles to different social media accounts. Some users even create separate email addresses or social media accounts to use only with dating profiles.

    Use dating apps or websites that have safety features. While these features cannot prevent a recipient from recording the screen with a second device, they do offer some protection, including:

    • Providing warnings that notify you if a recipient has taken a screenshot of an image you shared or of your chat history.
    • An “unsend” option for pictures or messages.
    • The ability to delete images or chats from a recipient’s messages.

    COVID-19 Debt Relief (for debts referred to the OAG)

    You may be Eligible for COVID-19 Debt Relief

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the OAG is accepting requests for temporary relief from the collection of all types of debts (i.e., SUNY tuition debt, State Hospital debt, oil spill cleanup costs, unpaid regulatory fees, etc.) that have been referred to the OAG for collection and litigation. If you are suffering financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be eligible for debt relief, but you must contact us.

    Complete the Request Form by Mail

    To request a paper COVID-19 Debt Relief Request Form, please call the OAG hotline at 800-771-7755 (press * when prompted to hear more information on the Attorney General’s COVID-19 response, then press “4” when prompted to request a debt relief request form).

    Debt Relief Available

    • Stop new interest charges
    • Stop new collection fees
    • Protect your tax refund
    • Stop enforcement of judgments
    • Delay payment plan due dates
    • Change existing payment plans
    • Permanent reduction of the amount due on the account, based upon income

    Health Insurance Questions

    • If you have questions or concerns about health insurance costs related to COVID-19 tests or care, please call the OAG’s Health Care hotline: 1-800-428-9071.

    Employment Protections

    Health and Safety

    Emergency Paid Sick and Family Leave

    New York State Paid Sick Leave Law

    Local Sick Leave and Family Leave Laws

    Unemployment Insurance

    Workers’ Compensation for Essential Employees Continuing to Work

    Protections Against Discrimination and Harassment Based on National Origin

    Protections Against Discrimination for those Recovering from COVID-19

    Protections Against Harassment While Telecommuting

    Retaliation

    Additional Protection from Retaliation for Healthcare Workers

    Health and Safety

    Under New York’s reopening plan, New York Forward, your employer’s obligations differ based on your region’s phase of reopening and industry. Since every region of New York is currently in Phase Four of reopening, an employer can require you to report to work. Your employer, however, is still required to comply with all health and safety laws. For further information, please visit the New York Forward website.

    If you are concerned that your employer is not following New York Forward guidelines or health and safety mandates, you may file a complaint with the New York Department of Labor. Please use the Department of Labor’s complaint form.

    Yes. EEOC guidance states that an employer may choose to administer COVID-19 testing to employees before initially permitting them to enter the workplace and/or periodically to determine if their presence in the workplace poses a direct threat to others.

    Certain industries, such as nursing homes, may be required to administer COVID-19 tests to employees.

    There is no rule or regulation requiring employers to require the vaccine. According to EEOC guidance, an employer can require vaccination so long as those employers respect an employee’s (1) sincerely held religious beliefs protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and (2) medical conditions which make receipt of the vaccine dangerous or otherwise inappropriate for that individual in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If any employee does not want to get a vaccination based on religious beliefs or due to a medical condition, the employee should request an accommodation from the employer. The employer should find the employee’s request to be reasonable unless it places an undue burden on the employer.

    In addition, the EEOC guidance permits employers to ask employees if they have been vaccinated. However, an employer can only ask why an employee hasn’t been vaccinated if the question is “job-related and consistent with business necessity,” meaning a failure to vaccinate would pose a “direct threat” to the well-being of that employee or others in direct contact with them during their job.

    Yes. On March 12, 2021 Governor Cuomo signed an order granting public and private employees up to 4 hours of paid leave per COVID-19 vaccine injection. Leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay and cannot be charged against other leave accruals. The COVID-19 vaccine law remains in effect until December 31, 2022.

    The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has issued guidance on this law. The key takeaways are:

    • Use of Leave and Employee Coverage: Paid leave is only available for an employee’s own receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine. The law does not provide leave to allow an employee to assist a relative or other person to receive a vaccine./li>
    • Amount of Leave: The maximum number of leave hours that an employee is entitled to depends on the number of required COVID-19 vaccine injections. If a COVID-19 vaccine requires two injections, then the employee is entitled to two periods of paid leave of up to four hours each (eight hours in total).
    • Retroactive Application: The law does not create any retroactive benefit rights. Therefore, only employees who were vaccinated on or after March 12, 2021 are eligible for paid leave. However, nothing in the law prevents employers from voluntarily providing employees with such benefits retroactively.
    • Notice and Documentation Requirements: The law does not prevent an employer from requiring advance notice or proof of vaccination in order to use this leave.

    Guidance implementing Executive Order 202.6 states that, “Essential Businesses must continue to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the Department of Health (DOH) and every business, even if essential, is strongly urged to maintain social distancing measures to the extent possible.”

    Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 202.16 directs essential businesses to provide, at their expense, face coverings for their employees when in direct contact with customers or members of the public.

    CDC Guidance requires, “If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)” , thereby permitting the “fellow employees [to] self-monitor for symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath).”

    The same CDC Guidance also requires that the employer “Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection, . . . [and] enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility.” In particular, CDC Disinfection Recommendations explain that the employer should “Close off areas visited by the ill persons. Open outside doors and windows and use ventilating fans to increase air circulation in the area. Wait 24 hours or as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection. . . .Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces . . . additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary if it has been more than 7 days since the person with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 visited or used the facility.”

    Emergency Paid Sick and Family Leave

    These emergency sick and family leave laws offer specific protections for people diagnosed with, have symptoms of, or quarantined for COVID-19, people caring for those with COVID-19, or people caring for children whose schools or day care have closed due to COVID-19.

    The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) took effect on April 1, 2020, and its mandatory provisions expired on December 31, 2020. The requirement that employers provide emergency paid sick leave or expanded family medical leave under the FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020. Employers may, however, choose to provide FFCRA paid sick leave and paid family leave benefits through September 30, 2021 and will receive a tax credit.

    The state law took effect March 18, 2020. The list of qualifying reasons to use these benefits has been expanded, and now includes leave to get a vaccine and leave to recover from ill side-effects after you’ve been vaccinated.

    Employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and were seeking a medical diagnosis between April 1 and December 31, 2020, are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their usual rate of pay, capped at $5,110, if they were working for employers of 499 employees or less, with limited exceptions, under federal law.

    Under the federal FFCRA, an employer may (but is not required to) exclude health care providers and emergency responders from taking emergency paid sick and family leave. The U.S. Department of Labor has provided this guidance on coverage under the FFCRA

    Individuals who have, have symptoms of, or have been exposed to COVID-19 may be eligible for a mandatory or precautionary quarantine order from the local Health Department.  To get information and guidance on obtaining a quarantine order, please refer to Guidance on Obtaining an Order of Quarantine and this list of county health department contacts.

    Both federal and state law provide protections for those under quarantine or isolation orders.  Under the state law, the employee must be under an order issued by the local Health Department.  Further information is available on the factsheet, Guidance on Obtaining an Order of Quarantine.

    If the local Health Department is not able to immediately provide an order of quarantine, the employee can submit documentation from a licensed medical provider that meets certain requirements.  Guidance on documentation from a licensed medical provider can also be found on the Obtaining an Order For Mandatory or Precautionary Quarantine factsheet

    The state paid leave provisions only apply if they are more protective than the federal leave provisions (either because the federal leave provisions do not apply to an employee, or because the state law provides more coverage). The state law protections do not apply to those who are under quarantine or self-isolation at home but are not symptomatic and are able to work remotely. The state law also protects health care providers and health responders who may not be covered by the federal law. More information on these leave benefits is available on the New York Paid Leave for COVID-19 website.

    Employers must pay the same amount of wages that the worker would have otherwise received had he/she continued to work for the period covered by the order. Whether state or federal protections govern depends on employer size and the date of the leave. This means that:

    For employers with 100 or more employees

    • Employees are entitled to up to 14 calendar days of paid sick leave during the period covered by the order, under state law. The employer is required to pay the wages that the employee would have otherwise received in the 14-calendar-day period (as opposed to 14 business days) at the employee’s regular rate.

    For employers with between 50 and 99 employees

    • Employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave at full pay, with a maximum of $5,110 total, under federal law if the leave occurred between April 1 and December 31, 2020.

    For employers with fewer than 50 employees

    • Under federal law, employers with fewer than 50 employees are obligated to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at full pay, with a maximum of $ 5,110 total, with limited exceptions, if the leave occurred between April 1 and December 31, 2020. For employers falling into one of the exceptions in the federal law, or if the leave occurs after December 31, 2020, state law provides as follows:

    For employers with between 11 and 99 employees and employers with between 1 and 10 employees with net income of over $1 million in 2019

    • Employees are entitled to 5 days of paid sick leave at their regular rate of pay during the period covered by the order and. unpaid leave until the termination of the order. After 5 days of paid sick leave, an employee shall be eligible for paid family leave and/or disability benefits.

    For employers with between 1 and 10 employees and net income less than $1 million in 2019

    • Employees are not entitled to this paid sick leave; instead they are entitled to unpaid leave until the termination of the order, and must use paid family leave and/or disability benefits for the period of quarantine/isolation.

    Employees may also apply for state paid family leave and temporary disability benefits to cover the rest of a quarantine period, or while they or a family member continue to be sick.  For state family leave benefits, the maximum weekly allowance is $840.70.  For emergency temporary disability benefits, the maximum weekly allowance is $2,043.92.  For more information on state paid family leave, please call the PFL Helpline at (844) 337-6303 or visit the Paid Family Leave for Family Care website.

    Employees were entitled to up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave at two-thirds pay, with a maximum of $200 per day and $2,000 in total, with limited exceptions, under federal law, if they were caring for someone who had COVID-19 or had been quarantined between April 1 and December 31, 2020. U.S. Department of Labor regulations say the person the employee is caring for must be an “the Employee’s immediate family member, a person who regularly resides in the Employee’s home, or a similar person with whom the Employee has a relationship that creates an expectation that the Employee would care for” them.

    Employees are also entitled to use state paid family leave to care for sick family members or for children under mandatory quarantine. For state family leave benefits, employees will be compensated at 60% of their average weekly earnings for 10 weeks with a maximum weekly allowance of $840.70 per week. For more information on state paid family leave, please call the PFL Helpline at (844) 337-6303 or visit the Paid Family Leave for Family Care website.

    Employees were entitled to use federal emergency sick leave and emergency family leave to care for children whose schools or day care or preschool facilities closed due to COVID-19 between April 1 and December 31, 2020, if they were working for employers of 499 employees or less, with limited exceptions, under federal law. The law also applies if a regular child care provider became unavailable due to COVID-19. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from providing family leave if it jeopardized their business viability. For federal paid sick leave benefits, the employee will receive two-thirds pay with a maximum of $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate. For federal family leave benefits, employees can use the emergency paid sick leave for two weeks (to be compensated at a maximum of $2,000 total for those two weeks), and will be compensated at 67% of their regular rate for the following ten weeks, with a maximum of $10,000 total.

    Under the federal law, self-employed individuals who would have been entitled to paid sick or family leave if they were employees will receive a tax credit if they lost work between April 1 and December 31, 2020, because: (a) they were ordered by a health department or advised by a health care provider to quarantine or self-quarantine, (b) had symptoms of COVID-19 and were seeking a medical diagnosis, (c) were caring for someone in one of the first two categories, or (d) were caring for a child whose school or day care closes. For days when employees would have been entitled to full pay up to $511 per day, the amount of the tax credit will be the lesser of the individual’s daily self-employment income, or $511 per day. For days when employees would have been entitled to two-thirds of their regular pay up to $200 per day, the amount of the tax credit will be the lesser of 67% of average daily self-employment income, or $200 per day.

    Both federal and state law prohibit retaliation, including discipline, firing, or otherwise discriminating against an individual, for taking sick or family leave.

    If you have been retaliated against for taking or requesting emergency leave, you should contact the Attorney General’s Office using the Labor Bureau’s complaint form. You may also email labor.bureau@ag.ny.gov or call (212) 416-8700.

    New York State Paid Sick Leave Law

    Effective January 1, 2021, New York’s paid sick leave law requires employers with five or more employees or net income of more than $1 million to provide paid sick leave to employees and for employers with fewer than five employees and a net income of $1 million or less to provide unpaid sick leave to employees. This new law is in addition to the New York State provisions already in effect providing emergency paid sick time due to COVID-19. The amount of paid sick leave depends on employer size. This means that:

    Employers with 100 or more employees must provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year.

    Employers with 5-99 employees, and employers with 0-4 employees with net income in excess of $1 million must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year.

    Employers with 0-4 employees whose net income is $1 million or less must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per calendar year.

    On September 30, 2020, covered employees in New York State began to accrue leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.

    Local Sick Leave and Family Leave Laws

    In addition to the protections for COVID-19 recovery and the new New York State law, New York City and Westchester County have generally-available paid sick leave and family leave protections for those with, or caring for family members with, other illnesses or medical conditions.

    Most employees in New York City and Westchester have up to five days of paid sick leave per year if they work for an employer that has more than five employees or if the employee is a domestic worker.

    Employees accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked and most employees can take sick time after they have worked for the employer for 120 days (employees in Westchester can begin taking sick time after 90 days of employment). Employees must be able to carry over at least 40 hours of accrued sick time year to year.

    This means that full-time employees will have at least five paid sick days if they have worked for an employer for more than eight months.

    Employees should request leave from their employers. An employee may be required to provide reasonable notice (but no more than seven days) only if the use of sick time is foreseeable. Otherwise, for unexpected medical issues, no advance notice is required, but an employer may require that notice be given as soon as practicable.

    An employer may not require employees to provide documentation from medical professionals about the necessity of sick leave unless the employee is out for more than three consecutive days. If you have been unlawfully denied sick leave or for more information, please visit:

    Employees who become ill or injured off-the-job may be eligible for temporary disability benefits. Disability benefits are paid at 50% of an employee’s average weekly wage with a maximum of $170 per week.

    For more information on temporary disability benefits, please visit the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board or contact by phone at (877) 632-4996 or via e-mail at Claims@wcb.ny.gov. For information on how to file a claim, please visit the New York State Workers’ Compensation Claim page.

    Most employees in New York can take 12 weeks of partially paid leave to take care of a family member with a serious health condition. Employees will be compensated at 67% of their average weekly earnings with a maximum weekly allowance of $971.61 per week.

    Full-time employees may start taking leave after 26 weeks of starting work and part-time employees may start taking leave after 175 days of work.

    Employees should request leave from their employers. An employee may be required to notify the employer 30 days in advance if the leave is foreseeable. If the leave is unexpected, then employees must give their employers notice as soon as practicable.

    Please note that employees generally may not use leave for their own medical conditions.

    If you have been unlawfully denied family leave or for more information on state paid family leave, please call the NYS Paid Family Leave Helpline at (844) 337-6303 or visit the NYS Paid Family Leave resource page.

    Employees are guaranteed 12 weeks of job-protected leave within a 12-month period if they are sick or need to take care of a sick family member if they work for an employer of 50 or more for at least a year, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Family members include spouses, children, and parents. Employees may take this leave on a part-time or intermittent basis. Your employer must continue your health insurance during the leave of absence, although employees may be asked to make employee contributions.

    Employees should request leave from their employers. Employees must give employers 30 days’ notice if leave is foreseeable.

    If you have been unlawfully denied FMLA leave, or for more information, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division or call 1-866-487-9243.

    Unemployment Insurance

    Employees may be entitled to unemployment insurance payments for 26 weeks if they are laid off on a temporary or permanent basis through no fault of their own. The amount of benefits employees receive depends on their average weekly rate, with a minimum of $104 per week and a maximum of $504 per week. In order to qualify for weekly benefits, employees must continue to look for work.

    Employees should apply for unemployment insurance with the New York Department of Labor immediately after they are laid off.  To file unemployment insurance claims please visit the NYS Department of Labor. You may file a claim online, or you can call the Telephone Claim Center at (888) 209-8124. Once you file a claim for benefits, you must also claim weekly benefits (also known as “certifying for benefits”) for each week you are unemployed and meet the eligibility requirements. You can claim your weekly benefits each week online, or by calling (888) 581-5812.

    For more information about the unemployment insurance claim process and eligibility, please visit the NYS Department of Labor claimant handbook.

    **During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Labor is not requiring applicants to wait one week before receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

    The federal CARES Act provided enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for New Yorkers. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, PUA is now available through September 6, 2021, for a maximum of 86 weeks of benefits. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) of $300 per week is also available through September 6, 2021. State unemployment insurance benefits have been extended for a total of 53 weeks if you are still unemployed after 26 weeks, through September 6, 2021. For more information visit the Department of Labor’s website.

    To receive these extended federal benefits, continue to certify weekly while unemployed. There is no need to reapply or contact DOL unless your benefit year has come to an end or you are asked to submit a new application.

    Yes. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) has extended eligibility for individuals who have traditionally been ineligible for UI benefits (e.g., self-employed workers, independent contractors). These individuals are eligible if they cannot work because of COVID-19. Some of the reasons include: a positive COVID-19 diagnosis of the individual or a family member, having symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking diagnosis, they are the primary caregiver of a child whose school closed due to the virus, their place of employment closed as a direct result of COVID-19, etc. DOL has a streamlined application that allows you to apply for either regular UI or PUA, depending on your eligibility. You do not have to complete a separate application for PUA. The application will determine which program you should be applying for and then prompt you to answer program-specific questions. For more information on the PUA and eligibility, please visit the NYS Department of Labor's Unemployment Insurance guidance.

    As of January 18, 2021, the Department of Labor has modified its system for partial unemployment eligibility so that you can take on part-time work without losing a disproportionate amount of unemployment and pandemic benefits. This new partial unemployment system uses an “hours-based” approach. You can work up to 7 days per week without losing full unemployment benefits for that week, if you work 30 hours or fewer and earn $504 or less in gross pay excluding earnings from self-employment. With this change, your benefits will not be reduced for each day you engage in part-time work. Instead, benefits will be reduced in increments based on your total hours of work for the week. See the following link for further information on how this impacts weekly certifications and guidance for claiming partial benefits: Partial Unemployment Eligibility

    You may be entitled to unemployment insurance even if you are classified as an independent contractor. If an employer has sufficient control over your schedule, pay, and day-to-day work conditions, you may be misclassified as an independent contractor.

    Any worker that experiences loss in work may apply for unemployment insurance with the New York Department of Labor. To file unemployment insurance claims, please visit the NYS Department of Labor.

    If you believe you are the victim of identity theft related to unemployment insurance, including someone filing a false claim using your personal information, you can report the fraud to the New York State Department of Labor by submitting an online form, calling a toll-free hotline, 1-888-598-2077, or by mail.

    The best way to contact the New York State Department of Labor is to fill out the online form.

    In addition, you can take steps to protect your credit by filing an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.

    Yes. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signed by President Biden includes an opportunity for six months of free COBRA coverage between April and September of 2021 for employees who lost their health plan via involuntary termination or reduced hours. Individuals who are eligible for other health care plans or Medicare are not eligible for this subsidy.

    Workers’ Compensation

    Employees that contract COVID-19 at their place of work may be entitled to workers’ compensation insurance during any treatment or recovery.  Employees receive weekly benefits of two-thirds of their average weekly pay rate multiplied by their percentage of disability with a maximum payment of $966.78 per week.

    Employees should apply for benefits with the Workers’ Compensation Board. To file a Workers’ Compensation claim please visit the Workers’ Compensation Board or call (877) 632-4996 for questions or assistance.

    Protections Against Discrimination and Harassment Based on National Origin

    Employers are prohibited by federal, state, and city law from treating employees differently based on race or national origin. If you have been fired, demoted, or harassed because your employer believes that you are from a country where there is a high incidence of COVID-19 cases, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office.

    Completed forms can be mailed to the Civil Rights Bureau, emailed to civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or faxed to (212) 416-6030. You may also call (212) 416-8250.

    Employees may also file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you work at a workplace with more than 15 people. Complaints with the EEOC must be filed within 300 days of the discriminatory incident. You may also call (800) 669-4000.

    Any employee may file with the NYS Division of Human Rights. Complaints with the NYS Division of Human Rights must be filed within one year. You may also call (888) 392-3644.

    New York City employees may file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights if your employer has employed more than three people in the past year. You may call (718) 722-3131.

    Protections Against Discrimination for those with or Recovering from COVID-19

    Under federal, state, and local law, employers must provide a reasonable accommodation for employees if, as a result of a long- or short-term disability, they need an accommodation to perform their jobs. Reasonable accommodations can include telecommuting, staggering your schedule, or taking leave. Short-term disabilities protected under the anti-discrimination laws includes severe but temporary illnesses.

    Employees should request an accommodation from their employers.

    If you have been unlawfully denied an accommodation, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office.

    Employees may also file a complaint with the federal EEOC if you work at a workplace with more than 15 people. Complaints with the EEOC must be filed within 300 days of the discriminatory incident. You may also call (800) 669-4000.

    Any employee may file with the NYS Division of Human Rights. Complaints with the SDHR must be filed within one year. You may also call (888) 392-3644.

    New York City employees may file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights if your employer has employed more than three people in the past year. Complaints must be filed within one year of the last alleged wrongful act. For more information, you may call (718) 722-3131.

    Federal, state, and local law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for a disability or a perceived disability. If you have been fired, demoted, or harassed because you are being treated for or recovering from COVID-19, please file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office.

    Completed forms can be mailed to the Civil Rights Bureau, emailed to civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or faxed to (212) 416-6030. You may also call (212) 416-8250.

    Employees may also file a complaint with the federal EEOC if you work at a workplace with more than 15 people. Complaints with the EEOC must be filed within 300 days of the discriminatory incident. You may also call (800) 669-4000.

    Any employee may file with the State Division of Human Rights. Complaints with the SDHR must be filed within one year. You may also call (888) 392-3644.

    New York City employees may file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights if your employer has employed more than three people in the past year. Complaints must be filed within one year of the last alleged wrongful act. For more information, you may call (718) 722-3131.

    Yes. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that temperature checks and mandatory medical tests for COVID-19 are job-related and consistent with business necessity.  An employer may not, however, require than an employee be tested for anti-bodies.

    Protections Against Harassment While Telecommuting

    Yes. All federal, state, and local anti-harassment laws still apply whether or not work is conducted within the four corners of the job site or within your own home. You can report workplace harassment to federal, state, and city agencies.

    Retaliation

    Retaliation is prohibited for exercising your right to paid or unpaid sick or family leave, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, complaining about health and safety conditions, national origin or race, discrimination, or requesting an accommodation for a disability.

    There is also a narrow protection from retaliation under New York’s whistleblower protection law, Labor Law Section 740, by which an employer is prohibited from taking retaliatory action against an employee who “discloses or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public body an activity, policy or practice of the employer that is in violation of law, rule or regulation which violation creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety” or who “objects to, or refuses to participate in any such activity, policy or practice in violation of a law, rule or regulation.” NY Lab. L. § 740(2)(c).

    In order to prove a claim under this law, a worker must prove that:

    (1) she disclosed or threatened to disclose an activity, policy, or practice of her employer to a supervisor or public body, or objected to or refused to participate in an activity, policy, or practice of the employer; 

    (2) the underlying activity, policy, or practice constituted an actual violation of a law, rule, or regulation,

    (3) the violation presented a substantial and specific danger to the public; and

    (4) the employer fired or disciplined the worker because of her activity in item (1).

    If you believe you have been retaliated against for exercising any of your rights above, you should file a complaint with the Labor Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office, email labor.bureau@ag.ny.gov, or call (212) 416-8700.

    Additional Protection from Retaliation for Healthcare Workers

    Healthcare services professionals who disclose or threaten to disclose information to their supervisors or to the public about the quality of care patients receive are protected from retaliation.

    Healthcare professionals with concerns about patient care during the COVID-19 outbreak should contact the NYS Department of Health.

    Healthcare employees with concerns about retaliation for reporting patient care issues should contact the Attorney General's Office.

    COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility and Vaccine-Related Scams

    For the latest information on vaccine eligibility in New York, please visit New York State COVID-19 Updates.

    All vaccinations are by appointment only. Vaccines are available at pharmacies, hospitals, state-run sites, and through local health departments statewide. To schedule an appointment, you may contact your provider of choice. You may also use the State’s online tool or call the COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 833-697-4829 (7 am - 10 pm, 7 days a week) to schedule an appointment.

    For all up-to-date information pertaining to COVID-19 vaccine approval and distribution in New York, please visit the New York State Department of Health. Individuals may also contact the New York State COVID-19 Hotline at 888-364-3065 for all COVID-19 related questions.

    While New York has expanded the groups of people eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, demand for the vaccines is high and supply is limited. The Office of Attorney General (OAG) continues to warn New Yorkers of COVID-19 vaccine scams. Scammers may impersonate public health officials from organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). They may also offer to ship a COVID-19 vaccine directly to homes, provide special access to vaccines or clinical trials, or sell special cold storage device for vaccines.

    Consumers are also warned to beware of phony vaccine cards sold on social media platforms or other areas of the Internet. Vaccine cards typically record the date a vaccine is administered, the vaccine manufacturer, and the batch number, and are provided by the vaccination site for a consumer’s own records. The target market for these phony cards may be people who want to avoid the vaccine or who mistakenly believe the card is required to travel or for some other purpose. Phony vaccine cards pose a public health risk and should NOT be purchased for any reason. The information consumers provide may also be used for identity theft.

    Here are some tips to help New Yorkers avoid vaccine-related scams:

    • Be wary of anyone calling or emailing you with offers of a vaccine and do not give out your Social Security number, personal credit card, or bank account information. No one from a vaccine distributor, health care company, or private insurance company will ask for this information.
    • No New Yorker should be charged any amount out of pocket – regardless of whether they have insurance or not – while the pandemic remains a public health emergency.
    • You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine or to get into a vaccine clinical trial.
    • If you get an e-mail about a COVID-19 vaccine or clinical trial, check the sender’s email domain to make sure it matches the website of the organization sending the e-mail and be wary of clicking on any hyperlinks or providing any login or other personal information.

    If a consumer believes they have been the victim of a COVID-19 vaccine scam or any unlawful activity, they can report these incidents to the OAG.

    Nursing Homes and Adult Care Facilities

    By order of the Governor, NYS nursing homes are required to report positive COVID-19 cases and deaths to the families of facility residents within 24 hours. The order includes adult homes and other assisted living facilities.

    If you are a resident’s family member who did not receive the mandated communication, please file a complaint with the NYAG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit

    Reporting Hate Crimes

    The OAG has launched a hotline for New Yorkers to report hate crimes and bias-based incidents. The hotline, which will continue indefinitely, comes in the wake of rising reports of harassment and assaults, as well as rhetoric against Asian Americans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The OAG urges anyone experiencing hate crimes and bias incidences to report them by emailing the OAG’s Civil Rights Bureau at civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or by calling 1-800-771-7755.

    Guidance for Funeral Arrangements

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Planning a funeral can be stressful and is done in a time of grief and sorrow. To make sure that you have all the information you need during this difficult time, this guidance seeks to provide you with answers to frequently asked questions and resources. Remember that as the person paying for the arrangements, you are the customer and have rights. 

    Choose a funeral home with which you feel comfortable. You can ask friends or co-workers or your clergy person for their recommendations if you don't have a preference. You and the funeral director will have an arrangement conference. This could be done at the funeral home, at your home, or remotely, such as over the telephone. You have the right to be provided with a "General Price List" that identifies the prices charged for various goods and services available. Although funeral homes are permitted to set their own prices, it is a violation of law to charge you more than the prices listed on the funeral home’s General Price List. When you have made your selections, you will be given an Itemized Statement of Services and Merchandise, which, for most funeral arrangements, will include contractual language which legally obligates you to pay the cost of the funeral once the contract is signed. If the arrangements have been made by telephone or other remote means, you will also be given a copy of the General Price List when you receive an Itemized Statement of Services and Merchandise.

    What Information Should I Receive Before Signing a Contract?

    Contact several funeral homes to compare prices. It's also important to choose a home with a good reputation within the community. Prior to making any selections, the law requires the funeral director to give you:

    • A General Price List with the current prices (or range of prices) for any merchandise, services, and facilities offered by the funeral home. While funeral homes are permitted to set these prices, they must be adhered to and you cannot be charged more than the list prices. By law, this list must be given to you at the beginning of the arrangement conference. If you are making funeral arrangements remotely, such as via telephone, you should ask for the price list to be provided to you by email or otherwise, and you should review it before signing a contract. You do not need to complete funeral arrangements to receive this list. 
    • A Pre-Need Itemization Statement of Services and Merchandise that lists the items of merchandise, services, and facilities you have chosen, and the price of each. You can leave the details of some items open until you have made a final decision, or until you have chosen someone to make these decisions for you. Also included will be an estimate of the cash advance fees to be paid on your behalf to third parties. The itemized statement will serve as your contract once signed.
    • A Pre-Need Agreement that outlines all the terms as well as your rights as the purchaser. It must also state how the principal and interest will be applied to the cost of your funeral services and merchandise at the time they are provided. You should carefully review each of these documents before finalizing your funeral arrangements.

    What will the funeral arrangements cost?

    The costs of funeral arrangements vary greatly, depending on the funeral home and on the type of service and merchandise you choose. For example, if the service you select involves viewing the remains, the funeral home may require embalming and preparation of the body, which can be expensive. Also, there is a tremendous range in the price of caskets, depending on style, type of wood, lining, and other factors. The least expensive type of funeral service is direct burial or direct cremation.

    You can call several funeral homes and compare prices. Funeral homes are required to give price information over the telephone.

    Can the funeral home change arrangements without my permission?

    No, the funeral director must obtain your approval before making any substitutions or changes.

    Can the funeral home charge storage and refrigeration fees?

    Yes, funeral homes can charge custodial care fees for days that the body is being held and no other services are being provided. However, this fee must be disclosed and identified as a daily, weekly, or one-time fee.

    Is embalming required by New York State law? 

    No, in fact, a funeral director must obtain specific approval to embalm from the customer. A funeral home may, however, require embalming if certain services, such as a viewing with an open casket, are chosen. Embalming fees must be clearly stated on both the firm's General Price List and on the Itemized Statement of Services and Merchandise. The funeral home may not refuse to embalm or otherwise handle the body, regardless of the cause of death of the deceased. The home also may not charge extra for preparing or handling the body of a person who has died of an infectious disease. 

    Who and how many can attend visitation and funeral services under the PAUSE NY Executive Order?

    In regions that have entered Phase 4, no more than 33 percent of the maximum occupancy for a particular area for services occurring indoors; or no more than 50 people for services occurring outdoors. To get more information, visit the New York State Guidelines for Religious and Funeral Services.

    What if I can’t sign funeral service-related agreements in person - are electronic signatures permitted?

    Yes, under an executive order issued on March 26, 2020, documents related to funeral arrangements may be signed electronically. This executive order applies to all funeral-related documents except for the cremation authorization form. However, cremation authorization forms may be witnessed remotely. 

    Are there any additional restrictions on funeral arrangements if the deceased died of COVID-19?

    It is illegal for funeral homes to engage in the following practices:

    • pressuring the customer to select certain services or merchandise
    • charging an additional fee for filing the death certificate or getting it medically certified
    • charging a "handling fee" for paying third parties on your behalf
    • charging a fee for handling a casket provided by the customer
    • charging for any service or merchandise not selected by the customer
    • charging prices in excess of those listed in the General Price List
    • charging interest on an outstanding balance unless this charge is disclosed at the time the funeral arrangements were initially made and is stated in the Itemized Statement
    • having persons other than a licensed funeral director make funeral arrangements, prepare the body, or supervise the burial
    • misrepresenting laws and regulations relating to funeral directing

    Remember:

    • You do not have to accept services or merchandise you don't want
    • You must be informed of all charges in advance
    • Always get a receipt.

    How do I complain about a cemetery or crematory?

    You can send a complaint by mail to:

    NYS Department of State
    Division of Cemeteries
    One Commerce Plaza
    99 Washington Avenue
    Albany, NY 12231-0001

    However, if the cemetery is owned by a religious organization or by a municipality, it may not be subject to the New York State Division of Cemeteries regulation. If, after the funeral, you have a serious problem with how the arrangements were handled, you can file a complaint with the New York State Department of Health online or by mail:

    New York State Department of Health
    Bureau of Funeral Directing
    875 Central Avenue
    Albany, NY 12206

    For more information on your rights, consult the New York State Department of Health “Consumer Guide to Arranging a Funeral.”

    If you think that you have been a victim of unfair or illegal practices, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

    Information for Student Loan Borrowers

    Federal Student Loans

    • Payments suspended: The Department of Education has extended the suspension of payments on government-held federal student loans and the suspension through September 30, 2021.
    • Collections suspended: The Department of Education has extended suspension of collection on defaulted federal student loans, including wage garnishment and withholding of tax refunds, through September 30, 2021.
    • The suspension of payments and collections applies to all Direct Loans and to those Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) loans held by the federal government. (If you have FFEL loans held by a commercial lender, see the next section.)
    • If any of your loans are eligible for these suspensions, you should have received a notice in April 2020.
    • The CARES Act, passed in March 2020, gives borrowers of government-held federal loans several additional benefits. The CARES Act:
    • Waives all interest on eligible loans during the suspension of payment period.
    • Permits eligible borrowers who are on track for loan forgiveness or loan rehabilitation to count the months of suspension as eligible payments for the purpose of the loan forgiveness or rehabilitation program.
    • Ensures that no negative credit information will be provided to Credit Reporting Agencies during the suspension in connection with eligible loans.
    • Suspends collection actions for eligible federal loans, including wage garnishment and reduction of tax refunds and other government benefits, until September 30, 2020 (the Department of Education has since extended the suspension on collection through September 30, 2021).
    • Call your servicer to confirm which of your loans are covered by the CARES Act and to ask what relief options are available for loans that are not covered. You can also call the Department of Education at 1-800-4-FED-AID or 1-800-999-8219.

    Private Loans and Commercially-held FFEL Loans

    The CARES Act benefits are not available for FFEL loans that are owned by commercial lenders or private student loans. However, help may still be available for these kinds of loans.

    For commercially held FFEL loans and private student loans, the CARES Act does not apply and you should call your servicer to ask what options are available.

    Most servicers have already agreed to provide some additional help for New York borrowers who ask for it and they are expecting your call. For most New York borrowers, you can expect the following:

      • Up to 90 days of payment forbearance (however, interest may accrue during the forbearance)
      • Waived late fees
      • Your loan will not be sent to collections if you are behind
      • No negative credit reporting

    These benefits will not be provided automatically, so call your servicer if you need help. Keep records of your calls (time, date, who you spoke with).

    Additionally, if any of your loans are commercial FFEL loans, you may want to consider enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. An income-driven repayment plan bases your payments on your income, which may result in lower monthly payments and will enable borrowers to work toward eventual loan forgiveness. If your income is low enough, your payment on those loans may be as low as $0/month.

    If you are already enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan and your income has dropped for whatever reason, you are entitled to apply to have your monthly payment adjusted. Most commercial FFEL loans are eligible for an income-driven repayment plan even though the CARES Act does not apply to them. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Education.

    Perkins Loans

    Perkins Loans are not eligible for CARES Act relief, but Perkins Loans that are held by the government are eligible for a 60-day forbearance, with zero interest accruing. This relief may not be available for Perkins loans held by your school. Contact your servicer to find out what relief is available for your Perkins loans.

    State Debt

    If you owe New York State debt related to your education (for example, unpaid tuition or a loan from the state), collections are temporarily suspended through December 31, 2021.

    Frequently Asked Questions on relief for student loan borrowers:

    Who is eligible for the benefits available under the CARES Act?

    The CARES Act only applies to federal student loans that are held by the federal government. This includes all Direct Loans and those Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) loans that are held by the federal government. If any of your loans are eligible, you should receive a notice describing the CARES Act benefits by April 11, 2020.

    The CARES Act benefits are not available for FFEL loans that are owned by commercial lenders, Perkins loans, or private student loans. However, help may still be available for these kinds of loans. See above for more information.

    If you are not sure what types of loan you have, contact your servicer to find out. If you don’t know who your servicer is, for federal student loans, you can find your servicer by visiting the U.S. Department of Education website. For private student loans, look at your latest billing statement or check your credit report. Even if your loans don’t qualify for relief under the CARES Act, some help will be available for most borrowers if they call their servicers.

    What if I am working towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or forgiveness under an income-driven repayment plan?

    For borrowers covered by the CARES Act, if the payment you would have made in a month would otherwise have counted towards forgiveness, the suspended payment will count towards forgiveness. In other words, you do not need to make payments during the CARES Act period to keep progressing towards forgiveness.

    Borrowers with commercial FFEL loans not covered by the CARES Act who are working towards forgiveness under an income-driven repayment plan will need to continue to make payments, rather than take forbearance, if they want those months to count towards forgiveness. However, if you are such a borrower and your income has dropped, you are eligible to apply immediately to have your monthly payment recalculated. Even if your payment drops to $0 a month as a result, it will still count towards forgiveness.

    What about income-driven repayment plans?

    Federal loan borrowers whose loans are eligible for the CARES Act may also want to consider enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. An income-driven repayment plan bases your payment amount on your income, which may result in lower monthly payments, and will enable borrowers to work toward eventual loan forgiveness. Depending on your income, your payment may be as low as $0/month, even after CARES Act benefits expire. Therefore, even if payments on your loans are suspended, it may still be worth it to you to apply for an income-driven repayment plan.

    If you are already enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, your eligible loans will still receive all CARES Act benefits. If your income has dropped for any reason, you are also entitled to apply immediately to have your monthly payment adjusted (though you will still not need to make payments until after your CARES Act benefits expire).

    Borrowers with commercial FFEL loans may also benefit from applying for an income-driven repayment plan, even though those loans are not eligible for CARES Act benefits. See the section on Private Loans and Commercially-held FFEL Loans, above.

    For more information on eligibility and the benefits of such plans, visit the U.S. Department of Education.

    Do I have to pay a fee to have my loan payments suspended?

    No. You do not have to pay anything to suspend your payments. If someone asks for money to obtain a suspension of payments, it is a scam and you should report them to our office by submitting a complaint.

    For more information on debt relief scams, please visit our website.

    What should I do if I think my servicer is not giving me the relief I’m entitled to?

    If you have determined the types of loans you have, reviewed this information and the information at the Department of Education’s website carefully, and believe that your servicer is denying you relief to which you are entitled, you may submit a complaint to our office.

    Information on Relief for College Students

    The CARES Act provides several forms of relief to currently enrolled college students.

    • The Act establishes the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which disburses funds to colleges. Colleges are required to use a portion of these funds to provide emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.
    • The Act provides relief to college students who are forced to drop out of school as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This relief ensures that the student’s withdrawal does not affect the student’s future ability to qualify for federal grants and loans.

    HEERF emergency financial aid grants are available to:

    • HEERF emergency financial aid grants are administered and disbursed by the students’ schools and are available to students who are otherwise eligible for federal financial aid.
    • Eligibility requirements include: U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status; a valid Social Security number; registration with Selective Service (if the student is male); and a high school diploma, GED, or completion of high school in an approved homeschool setting.
    • Students who are enrolled in online-only educational programs are not eligible for HEERF grants.

    How students can obtain HEERF emergency financial aid:

    • Students should contact their school for information about how to apply for a HEERF emergency financial aid grant.
    • Students should direct questions about other types of CARES Act relief for students to their school or to the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-4-FED-AID or 1-800-999-8219.

    Other CARES Act relief for college students:

    • Students’ eligibility for Pell Grants will not be affected by their non-completion of a semester due to the COVID-19 crisis.
    • If a student is forced to withdraw mid-semester due to the COVID-19 crisis, that semester will not be counted for purposes of usage limitations for subsidized federal student loans.
    • Schools can continue to pay work-study students who cannot complete work hours as a result of the crisis.
    • For students who withdraw mid-semester due to the crisis, the unused part of the students’ Pell grants will not be collected, and the students’ obligation to repay the portion of the loan associated with the period where the student withdrew from the school will be cancelled.

    Tenants’ Rights

    The Attorney General’s Office is unable to represent individuals or provide legal advice specific to your case. Instead, this FAQ will give general information about your rights. For specific legal advice for your case, you should contact an attorney. To find a free attorney, visit LawHelpNY. You can also contact your local bar association to get assistance. In NYC, you can contact 311 which can direct you to an attorney or a city agency.

    Tenant Rights During the COVID-19 Crisis in New York State

    New York State's New Eviction Protections

    What Defenses Do I Have For Not Paying Rent?

    Eviction Proceedings In Court

    Illegal Evictions (Lockouts) and Leases

    Rent Increases

    Disruption of Essential Services

    Discrimination

    Request for Access to Your Apartment By Landlord

    Retaliation

    New York State's New Eviction Protections

    On December 28, 2020, the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (EEFPA) of 2020 was signed into law and took immediate effect.

    Under the law, tenants and occupants are given the opportunity to submit a hardship declaration to their landlords, to the court or to a Sheriff, Constable or Marshal to immediately stop their eviction, their eviction case or even to prevent an eviction case from being filed against them.

    New York State allows tenants to get an automatic stay of eviction in all cases through August 31, 2021 by sending a hardship declaration (“Declaration”) to their landlord or handing the declaration to the court or a Sheriff, Marshal or City Constable. If you have already submitted a declaration, you do not need to resubmit a new declaration.

    Tenants are ineligible for the stay only in a nuisance case when a court determines that the tenant is persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others, with a specific description of the behavior (“Ongoing Nuisance Behavior’).

    In the Declaration, you must attest under penalty of perjury that you are experiencing either financial hardship or that moving would pose a significant health risk to you or a household member.

    Financial hardship means that you are unable to pay your rent or find another suitable permanent home because you either:

    • lost significant household income during the COVID-19 pandemic; or
    • had an increase in necessary out-of-pocket expenses related to performing essential work or related to health impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic; or
    • had childcare responsibilities or responsibilities to care for an elderly, disabled, or sick family member during the COVID-19 pandemic that negatively affected your ability or the ability of someone in your household to obtain meaningful employment or earn income or increased your necessary out-of-pocket expenses; or
    • would have moving expenses and difficulty securing alternative housing that make it a hardship for you to relocate to another residence during the COVID-19 pandemic; or
    • had other circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic that negatively affected your ability to obtain meaningful employment or earn income or have significantly reduced your household income or significantly increased your expenses.

    You are still eligible to claim financial hardship even if you are receiving any public assistance (e.g. unemployment insurance or paid family leave) so long as the benefits that you have received since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic do not fully make up for any loss of household income or increased expenses.

    A significant health risk means that you or one or more members of your household has an increased risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19 due to being over the age of sixty-five, having a disability or having an underlying medical condition.

    You are allowed to provide a Declaration to your landlord in English (or your primary language) before or during the eviction process. You may also provide the Declaration to the court and/or the person that is evicting you (i.e. Sheriff, Marshal, City Constable).

    You should keep a copy of the Declaration that you sent to your landlord. If you are not personally handing the Declaration to your landlord, keep proof of how you sent it (i.e. certificate of mailing, certified mail, email to the landlord, etc).

    Providing to Your Landlord

    You may provide the Declaration to your Landlord before or during an eviction proceeding.

    • If a Declaration is provided before an eviction proceeding is started, the landlord may not start a case against the tenant until August 31, 2021.
    • If a Declaration is provided to a Landlord during an eviction proceeding, the Landlord must notify the court and the case is stopped until August 31, 2021.

    A landlord must provide you with a blank Declaration in English (or your primary language) with any pre-court notice sent to you and the subsequent court papers that starts the case.

    The landlord’s pre-eviction notice to you must include a mailing address, telephone number and active email address that you can use to contact the landlord and return the Declaration, as well as a list of local non-profit legal services providers handling housing cases.

    A new case may only be commenced if you have not delivered a Declaration to your landlord or the case is about Ongoing Nuisance Behavior. The landlord will be required to file an affidavit attesting to the manner of their service of a pre-eviction tenant Declaration form upon the tenant and that the landlord/agent has either not received a Declaration before commencing the eviction case or that the case is about Ongoing Nuisance Behavior.

    Providing to the court

    You are allowed to provide Declarations to the court.

    The court is required to determine in writing or on the record that you have received the Declaration.

    If you didn’t receive a Declaration, tell the court and your case will be adjourned for at least 10 days for you to decide whether you can sign one.

    Proving to the Sheriff, Marshal or City Constable

    You can provide a Declaration to a Sheriff or other law enforcement officer who is executing an eviction warrant, even during the eviction itself.

    Upon receipt of a Declaration from you, the Sheriff or other law enforcement officer must stop the eviction and return the Declaration to the court indicating the appropriate index/case number.

    If the warrant states that the case is a nuisance case and the court has determined you are engaging in Ongoing Nuisance Behavior, the eviction is allowed to proceed even though a Declaration has been provided.

    The definition of tenant is very broad under the law. It includes:

    • All residential tenants – whether they have a lease or not
    • lawful occupants,
    • cooperative owners with a proprietary lease, and
    • manufactured home residents (mobile homes).

    The definition does not include a residential tenant or lawful occupant with a seasonal use lease where such tenant has a primary residence to which to return to.

    In addition, tenants are ineligible for the stay created by a hardship declaration if you are persistently and unreasonably engaging in behavior that substantially infringes on the use and enjoyment of other tenants or occupants or causes a substantial safety hazard to others, with a specific description of the behavior (“Ongoing Nuisance Behavior’).

    However, you are only ineligible where the case itself is a nuisance case where Ongoing Nuisance Behavior is alleged. A landlord cannot raise Ongoing Nuisance Behavior in other cases, such as non-payments.

    Before a landlord can evict you on a warrant issued before December 28, 2020, the court must hold status conference with the parties. At the status conference, you are able to submit a Declaration.

    If a Sheriff, Marshal or City Constable attempts to evict you, you can also provide a Declaration to them and the eviction will be stopped unless the court has determined that the case is about Ongoing Nuisance Behavior and you are engaging in Ongoing Nuisance Behavior.

    Your landlord must file a motion with the court so a hearing can be held before your landlord will be allowed to move forward with your eviction based on your default (i.e. missing the court date). The landlord must show the court that it has notified you of the time, date and place of the hearing.

    You can also have your default judgment removed with a written or oral request to the court. You can make this request before your landlord files a motion for a hearing or at the hearing itself. You do not need to file an Order to Show Cause nor do you need to explain why you missed the original court date that led to the default.

    After August 31, 2021, your landlord can attempt to collect all rent and fees not paid prior to and during the stay and can seek your eviction.

    You may have other defenses to the case or you may be able to obtain rent relief grants from your local Department of Social Services or New York State Housing and Community Renewal.

    • Please see “Does the suspension of evictions mean I don’t have to pay rent?” for further information about rent you may owe.

    What Defenses Do I Have For Not Paying Rent?

    The suspension of evictions through a Declaration does not suspend your obligation to pay rent.

    Contact your local Department of Social Services if you need help paying rent. In addition, the New York State Housing and Community Renewal was accepting rent relief applications through February 1, 2021 and you will want to follow up with them if you haven't heard about your application.

    You are protected from eviction for failing to pay rent that came due starting March 7, 2020 if you suffered a financial hardship.

    To receive the protections, you must raise in court that you are suffering from financial hardship.

    If the court finds that you had a financial hardship due to COVID-19, the landlord will not be allowed to evict you for the rent that was owed due to your hardship. However, the court can issue a money judgment against you for that rent.

    The court will look at the following factors to determine whether you had a financial hardship due to COVID-19:

    • your income prior to the COVID-19 covered period;
    • your income during the COVID-19 covered period;
    • your liquid assets; and
    • your eligibility for and receipt of cash assistance, supplemental nutrition assistance program, supplemental security income, the New York State disability program, the home energy assistance program, or unemployment insurance or benefits under state or federal law.

    Come to court with documents (paystubs, unemployment benefit statements, bank account statements, etc) that show you had a financial hardship due to COVID-19.

    If you filled out a hardship declaration based on financial hardship, there is a rebuttable presumption that you meet the criteria above for experiencing a financial hardship.

    You can now apply your security deposit to any arrears or future rent. If you are eligible for unemployment insurance/benefits or are affected financially due to COVID-19, your landlord must accept your request to apply your security deposit to rent. Other tenants can still agree with their landlords to apply their security deposit to rent but the landlord does not have to allow it. However, your landlord cannot force you to use your security deposit for rent if you do not want to do so.

    You will need to pay back the security deposit over a period of 12 months, starting 90 days after you apply the security deposit towards the rent. For instance, if your security deposit is $1,200, you would need to pay $100 per month for 12 months starting 90 days after you used your security deposit for rent. You can choose to use a security deposit insurance policy instead of repaying the security deposit.

    It depends.

    Your landlord cannot charge you a late fee or other fee if you are late in paying rent from March 20, 2020. This protection has been extended by Executive Order and may end at some point in the future.

    For all other times, your landlord can only charge a late or other fee if it is allowed by your lease. Even if your lease allows for late fees, your landlord can only charge $50 or 5% of your rent, whichever is less.

    You cannot be evicted for failing to pay a late or other fee.

    New York State laws make it illegal for landlords to engage in any action that is intended to force tenants to leave their homes or otherwise give up their rights under law. This means that your landlord is prohibited from interfering with your privacy, comfort and quiet enjoyment of your home.

    For example, your landlord may not persistently call you at all hours of the day or night asking you for the rent or suggesting that you must move out because you are behind in the rent. Your landlord may also not engage in disruptive construction or renovation projects in your building that interfere with your health and safety and use of your apartment. These actions could be considered harassment.

    You can call 911 if your landlord threatens you, forcibly removes you from your apartment, or locks you out. You may also be able to obtain an Order of Protection against your landlord. You can find information about how to obtain an Order of Protection from the New York State Unified Court System. Please call the court at (833) 503-0447 to get more information and to confirm whether the court will allow you to file an application for an Order of Protection.

    In New York City, the New York City Tenant Protection Act also provides additional strong anti-harassment protections. If you believe your landlord has engaged in harassment, you can contact 311 or the Right to Counsel hotline at 718-557-1379

    Eviction Proceedings In Court

    The court is allowing cases to proceed after March 1, 2021 as long as you have not submitted a hardship declaration or your case is not about Ongoing Nuisance Behavior. You may receive notice from the landlord or the court. The notice will either be for a court date or may require you to “answer” the court papers. You should not ignore court papers even if you are eligible for COVID-19 protections or you hear that courts are not defaulting tenants who fail to answer.

    You may be entitled by law to take additional days or weeks before filing an answer. In addition, some courts may allow you to answer the petition by phone instead of having to go to the court.

    You should contact the court system at (833) 503-0447 to find out more information about how to answer court papers. Before going to court, you should call ahead to see if you can avoid having to go in person. The court may allow you to conduct your business by telephone or email.

    In NYC, you can contact Housing Court Answers at (212) 962-4795 to help with filing an answer. You can also reach the Housing Court Help Center who may be able to answer your questions about filing an answer by phone. Leave a message with a phone number where you can be reached and a court attorney will call you back.

    Bronx and Manhattan: (646) 386-5554 or 5555

    Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island: (718) 262-7185 or 7186

    Outside NYC, you can go to the court website to find information about answering a petition. You can also contact your local city, village or district court to find information about how to answer the petition.

    Be aware that pre-court notices -- rent demand, termination of tenancy, notice to quit -- do not require you to go to court. Do not go to court to try to respond to them.

    Note -- Before going to court, you should call ahead to see if you can avoid having to go in person. The court may allow you to conduct your business by telephone or email. You can contact the Court system at (833) 503-0447 to find out more information

    • Please go to “NEW YORK STATE’S NEW EVICTION PROTECTIONS” for further information on ongoing court cases.

    Cases filed before March 17, 2020 will be allowed to go forward only after a status or settlement conference is held with the court. This applies to all stages of a case, including even if a judgment and/or warrant of eviction has been issued. In New York City, a landlord must file a motion that is served on you if they wish to obtain a warrant or try to evict you with a warrant that has already been issued.

    At the conference, the court will, among other things, ask about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the parties; review any special relief under state or federal law to which the parties may be entitled in light of the pandemic, including the New York Tenant Safe Harbor Act (L. 2020, c. 127); and refer unrepresented parties to local civil legal service providers and housing counseling agencies, If the court doesn’t ask about any of these things, you may wish to raise it with the court.

    After the court conference, the judge can decide whether your case can move forward or not.

    If a warrant of eviction was issued in your case, you should contact the court immediately and find out whether you should file papers to stop the eviction (called an Order to Show Cause – OSC).

    In New York City, you can contact 311 or you can reach out to the NYC Right to Counsel Hotline at 718-557-1379 or Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795 for information and referrals to attorneys who may be able to provide representation.

    Outside of New York City, you may find a legal referral from LawHelpNY.

    Illegal Evictions (Lockouts) and Leases

    It is a Class A Misdemeanor for your landlord to threaten you, change your locks or otherwise try to force you from your apartment without a court order.

    If a landlord locks you out or tries to evict you illegally, you should call 911 and show the law enforcement officer identification, lease, public utility bill, or other document with your name and address.

    If you are unable to get back into your apartment, you should contact the court system at (833) 503-0447 to find your closest emergency court. In NYC, you will be allowed to go to Housing Court in your borough to file an emergency petition to be restored to your apartment

    No. Your landlord must take you to court to evict you and you may have protections from eviction. Your landlord cannot change your locks or otherwise evict you without going to court even if your lease expires. The courts are beginning to accept cases although the courts are moving slowly in allowing cases to be scheduled.

    • Please see “NEW YORK STATE’S NEW EVICTION PROTECTIONS” for further information about how to obtain a stay of court proceedings.

    Even if your landlord serves you with a notice to vacate and then files a court case, it will take time for you to be evicted. The court must determine whether the landlord has a right to evict you. If the court decides that your landlord can evict you, you can ask the court for up to one year to move if you can show that you cannot find a similar apartment in the same neighborhood. The judge will take into account your health conditions, whether you have children enrolled in school, the hardship on the landlord if you remain, and any other life circumstances that could affect your ability to move.

    After the judge issues a decision, the landlord still cannot change your locks or evict you themselves. Instead, the judge will issue a final judgment of possession and a warrant. The warrant goes to a Sheriff, City Marshal, or City Constable who issues a notice and then will carry out the eviction.

    You are allowed to break your lease, however, you may be liable for rent for the entire length of the lease if the landlord is unable to find a new tenant at or above the rent you were paying.

    You will want to first speak with your landlord to see if they will release you from the lease. If the landlord agrees, you will want to get this agreement in writing.

    If your landlord refuses to let you out of the lease, you can still leave. Your landlord will have to make a good-faith effort to fill the vacancy. If the landlord finds a new tenant, and the new tenant’s rent is equal or higher to your rent, your lease is considered terminated. You are no longer liable for rent for the remainder of your lease.

    If your landlord is unable to find a new tenant or the new tenant is paying rent at a rate lower than your rent, you would be liable for the rent (or difference in rent) for the entire term of the lease. Rent will be due each month for the term of the lease. If you do not pay, the landlord would have to take you to court to collect the rent. The landlord must serve you with court papers. If the landlord is successful in obtaining a judgment against you in court, it must then enforce the judgment against you. To get more information about how a landlord collects on a judgment, visit the New York State Unified Court System.

    Rent Increases

    It depends. If you have a current lease, your landlord cannot increase your rent until it expires. If you are rent-stabilized or rent-controlled, the landlord is limited in the amounts it can increase your rent (currently 1.5% for a one-year renewal and 2.5% for a two-year renewal).

    For market-rate tenants whose lease is expiring or are month-to-month tenants, your landlord must provide you with advance written notice of any rent increases above 5%:

    • 90 days written advance notice if you have lived in your apartment two years or more, or if you have a two-year lease;
    • 60 days written advance notice if you have lived in your apartment for more than one year, but less than two years;
    • 30 days advance written notice if you have lived in your apartment for less than one year or have a lease for less than one year.

    Even if you are given proper advance notice of the rent increase, your landlord cannot charge you the increase in rent unless you accept it by signing a lease, paying the increase, or take another affirmative step evidencing you accepted the increase.

    If you refuse to pay the increase, the landlord must go to court to evict you. However, your landlord cannot bring you to court because there is currently a moratorium on both new cases and evictions.

    Once in court, the landlord cannot make you pay the rent increase if you did not accept it. Instead, the landlord can only ask the court for you to pay “use and occupancy” for the pendency of the case and the court will set this amount.

    If your landlord is rent gouging based on the COVID-19 crisis, the court likely will set the rent close to your previous rent or perhaps lower if the market rents have decreased or you have poor conditions or housing violations in your apartment.

    Disruption of Essential Services

    Tenants are entitled to a livable, safe, and sanitary home whether they are paying rent or not. A landlord’s failure to provide essential services such as hot water or electricity is a breach of the warranty of habitability.

    If your landlord has failed to provide essential services to you and you live in New York City, you can call 311 and request an emergency inspection. The deliberate disruption or discontinuance of essential services may also constitute harassment as described above or be considered an unlawful eviction.

    If you live outside of New York City, you can call your local code enforcement office to complain about a loss of essential services such as heat and hot water or other bad conditions.

    If the repair is an essential service (heat, hot water, etc), you can contact the court at (833) 503-0447 to determine whether and how to file a case against your landlord to fix these conditions.

    If you live in New York City, you can visit JustFix NYC to fill out an emergency housing part action form. If you are not comfortable doing this alone, you can call the Housing Court Answers hotline at 212-962-4795, and get help filling out the JustFix forms.

    Discrimination

    A landlord cannot discriminate against you or evict you because you or someone you live with has contracted COVID-19, had COVID-19, or the landlord just thinks that you have or had COVID-19.

    If you are elderly or have a physical, mental, or medical impairment, which may include a COVID-19-related illness, you are protected from housing discrimination under federal, state, and city laws, including the New York State Human Rights Law. In addition, it is unlawful for landlords and their agents to discriminate against tenants for associating with individuals of a protected class. For example, your landlord may not discriminate against you for associating with someone who is elderly or has a physical, mental, or medical impairment.

    Similarly, your landlord cannot treat you unfairly or differently because you are from or look like you are from a country where there is a serious COVID-19 outbreak. Your landlord also cannot refuse to protect you if you are being harassed by other tenants because you are from or look like you are from a country where there is a serious COVID-19 outbreak.

    To report any acts of discrimination, you may call the New York State Division of Human Rights at (888) 392-3644, in New York City, you may call 311 or the New York City Commission on Human Rights at (718) 722-3131, or in Westchester County, you may call the Westchester Human Rights Commission at (914) 995-7710. You may also file a complaint with the Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney’s General Office.

    Landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations in rules and procedures for persons with disabilities. If your landlord has a rule that you believe puts you at risk, you can ask for an accommodation in that rule. Your landlord may ask that you provide information that verifies your need for the accommodation, including documentation from a medical professional.

    Even if you are not elderly or at high risk from COVID-19, you should contact your landlord to see if they will change a rule that might place you at risk or forces you to violate the law. For instance, the Governor has issued an order that all non-essential travel be stopped and therefore landlords should change their policies about requiring you to travel to their offices to pay rent. You can contact your local elected officials or your local representatives who can help you negotiate with your landlord.

    Posting a notice that someone has an illness would be considered discrimination unless it is necessary to protect the health of others. Generally, there is no need to identify a person who has contracted COVID-19. Instead, a landlord can post a notice stating that someone within the building has contracted COVID-19 without identifying the person who got ill.

    To report any acts of discrimination, you may call the New York State Division of Human Rights at (888) 392-3644, in New York City, you may call 311 or the New York City Commission on Human Rights at (718) 722-3131, or in Westchester County, you may call the Westchester Human Rights Commission at (914) 995-7710. You may also file a complaint with the Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney’s General Office.

    Request for Access to Your Apartment By Landlord

    Your landlord is allowed reasonable access to your apartment. Reasonableness will depend on both why your landlord wants to gain access and also the risk to you and your family in allowing them access. For instance, if your landlord wants to show your apartment to a potential tenant and you have a sick family member, the court likely will not find this reasonable.

    If your landlord needs to enter into your apartment, he or she must provide you with at least 24-hours written notice of the need for access, unless it is an emergency (e.g. an overflowing water leak). If you do not want to allow individuals into your home in light of concerns about the transmissibility of COVID-19, or if you suffer from a disability that puts you at greater risk and your landlord demands access for non-emergency repairs, you should put in writing your reason for denying access to the landlord. Make a copy of the letter and mail the original to your landlord or preserve any text messages or emails you send and any responses. Ultimately, if your landlord takes you to court for denying access, a judge will determine whether your denial was reasonable and so it is important to put the landlord on notice.

    Retaliation

    A landlord cannot refuse to renew your lease or tenancy or unreasonably increase your rent because you made a complaint. There is a presumption that your landlord is retaliating if you made a complaint to the landlord or a government agency about your rights within one year of the landlord refusing to renew your lease or unreasonably increasing your rent. If your landlord brings you to court, you can raise this as a defense and if you are successful, the landlord must provide you with a new lease.

    Small Business Bulletin on the Paycheck Protection Program

    Information on Business Interruption Insurance

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    The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, originally established by Congress in March 2020 as part of the CARES Act, can be a potential lifeline for small businesses struggling due to the current crisis. The original deadline to apply for a PPP loan had been August 8, 2020. However, on December 21, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 which will provide supplementary PPP funding, permitting employers and self-employed individuals to seek “second draw loans.” The new law does change some of the terms of the program.

    To ensure that New York’s small businesses and non-profits gain access to these funds and avoid fraud in the process, the New York State Attorney General (NYAG) developed this bulletin summarizing the program and highlighting some risks for small businesses to keep in mind. In addition, the NYAG will continue to monitor the market and will take action to hold lenders and agents accountable for any efforts to defraud New York small businesses.

    What is the Paycheck Protection Program?

    The Paycheck Protection Program is a source of forgivable, low-interest, no-fee, no-collateral, no-personal-guarantee loans guaranteed by the U.S. Government as a response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The loans are administered by eligible financial institutions (see below) under the authority of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

    Under the CARES Act, PPP loans generally were made available to small businesses and non-profit and religious organizations with 500 or fewer employees, subject to some statutory and regulatory exceptions. PPP loans were also available to sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and self-employed persons.

    The December 2020 act imposes additional restrictions on PPP lending, including that second-time borrowers cannot obtain PPP loans if they employ more than 300 employees or are publicly traded. The act also requires that borrowers have experienced at least a 25 percent reduction in gross receipts from the same quarter of the previous year in order to be eligible for a PPP loan. Borrowers may be eligible for a second PPP loan even if they obtained a PPP loan previously in 2020.

    Interest rates for PPP loans are fixed at 1% per year. Under the CARES Act, loans could be issued in amounts up to $10 million, depending on borrowers’ payroll costs, with no collateral or personal guarantee required. The December 2020 act dramatically lowers the maximum PPP loan amount from $10 million to $2 million. PPP loans have two-year terms, and borrowers make no payments until 6 months after taking out the loan, although interest will accrue during this time. Borrowers pay no fees on PPP loans.

    The loan amounts will be forgiven as long as:

    • Under the CARES Act, the borrower uses at least 75% of the loan proceeds to cover payroll costs (up to $100,000 per year per employee) during the 8-week period after the loan is issued, with the remainder being used for payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. Under the December 2020 act, this percentage is reduced to 60%, and borrowers may also be able to use the remainder of PPP loan proceeds to pay for certain other expenses, such as software and cloud computing services, essential goods, and expenditures made to adapt business activities to comply with federal and state health guidance.
    • The borrower maintains employee and compensation levels.

    PPP loans will be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis until funds designated by Congress are depleted. Under the December 2020 act, Congress has authorized an additional $284 billion for PPP loans nationwide

    To learn more about PPP loans, be sure to read the following guides:

    5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Fraud When Applying for a PPP Loan

    • 1. Deal Only with Trusted Lenders – and Don’t Be a Victim to Phony PPP Lenders
      • Don’t take out a PPP loan from a lender you do not trust or recognize without conducting appropriate due diligence. To find a lender eligible to issue PPP loans, visit the SBA's website. Click the “FIND A LENDER” link to find an eligible lender located near you.
      • PPP rules allow the loans to be arranged by agents, including attorneys, accountants, and consultants. An agent is not required, however, and you should be wary of promises from parties who are not authorized lenders to expedite a loan on your behalf. To minimize the risk of fraud, you should contact an eligible, trusted lender yourself and not rely on agents or lenders that cold-call your business. 
      • If you do decide to work with an agent, make sure the agent is a person or company you recognize and trust. Confirm in writing that the agent is working with specific lenders eligible to participate in the PPP program, and confirm in writing the agent’s full name, phone number, and mailing address. Do not pay the agent any fees (see below).
      • Some lenders may advertise PPP loans even though they have no authority from the U.S. government to do so. They may also advertise loans “administered” by the SBA, even though true PPP loans are administered only by lenders, not the SBA itself. 
      • If an unauthorized lender promises a PPP loan or a loan “administered” by the SBA, that promise may be a sham, and the lender may be trying to sell you a different type of loan or funding – possibly with higher interest than permitted for PPP loans and with improper fees. Always confirm that a lender is eligible to issue PPP loans and that you are being offered a product consistent with terms of the PPP program described above.
    • 2. Make Sure the Information in Your Loan Application is 100% Correct, and Don’t Let Anyone Add Information that Isn’t Accurate
      • Unscrupulous agents or lenders may encourage borrowers to put false information in their loan applications in order to get the biggest loan possible (and to maximize their fees).
      • Don’t be a victim to this fraudulent practice. A fraudulent loan application can result in criminal liability for the borrower. To avoid this risk, make sure that everything in your application is correct, and don’t let any agent or lender put inaccurate information in it.
    • 3. Don’t Pay Fees to Get a PPP Loan
      • Lenders and agents may not charge borrowers fees or commissions in order to issue and service PPP loans.
      • Lenders will be paid fees only by the SBA, not by borrowers. The SBA will pay lenders processing fees of 5% (for loans up to $350,000), 3% (for loans more than $350,000 but less than $2 million), or 1% (for loans of $2 million or more). 
      • If you are working with an agent, the agent’s fees are to be paid only by the lender, and the agent is not allowed to charge you anything or take any amounts from the principal of your loan.
    • 4. Don’t Pay above 1% Annual Interest for a PPP Loan
      • PPP loans are low-interest loans, with annual interest rates of just 1% per year. Do not agree to any PPP loan that carries an interest rate higher than 1%. 
    • 5. Watch the Small Business Administration’s Website for New Developments
      • This Consumer Alert from the OAG reflects guidance from the U.S. government as it exists on April 14, 2020. But the PPP is a brand-new program, and its rules could change from day to day. Be sure to regularly check the Small Business Administration's website for new developments concerning PPP loans.

    Have You Been Defrauded in Connection with a PPP Loan?

    If you believe you have been defrauded by someone offering, issuing, or servicing a PPP loan, or if you have been offered a PPP loan by a lender that does not appear on the SBA.gov website as an eligible lender, you may file a complaint with the OAG's Office of Consumer Frauds and Protection , either online or by phone at 1-800-771-7755. 

    You may also submit a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

    Be sure to save all documents and communications concerning the loan, including agreements, emails, and advertising.

    Information on Business Interruption Insurance

    Business Interruption Insurance may cover total or partial suspension of business operations due to a direct loss, damage, or destruction to the insured property by a covered peril.

    Interruption by civil authority coverage may cover the actual loss sustained by the insured during the length of time when access to the business premises is specifically prohibited by order of civil authority.

    Because coverage varies across policies, you will need to read your particular policy and consult your broker or insurer to determine if you have these coverages and whether they are applicable.

    What types of losses may be covered?

    These coverages may provide for replacement of such things as revenue, rent payments, taxes, loan payments, payroll for employees and relocation costs.

    What steps should I take to protect my rights?

    Insurers may disclaim coverage for items they are required to insure if the insured does not provide timely notice of the claim. If you think you may have this coverage you should put your insurer on notice that you may be pursuing a claim.

    Is my business interruption coverage applicable to COVID-19?

    Whether this coverage is applicable to the current pandemic will depend on the specific terms of your policy and the specific facts involved in the disruption of your business. 

    Tips on Charitable Giving - COVID-19

    COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for all of us, and enormous needs for families of those affected by the disease, people who have lost their jobs, healthcare workers lacking protective equipment, organizations trying to fulfill those needs and many more. At the same time, generous New Yorkers and people throughout the country, as they have done during countless other disasters, seek ways to help.

    To make sure that your contributions go to legitimate relief organizations and directly to help victims, please consider these tips:

    • Check Before Giving. Donate to charities you are familiar with and carefully review information about the charity before you give. Most charities are required to register and file financial reports with the Attorney General's Charities Bureau if they solicit contributions from New Yorkers. Check our website, charitiesnys.com, for financial reports of charities or ask the charity directly for its reports.
    • Ask How Your Donation Will Be Used. Find out how the charity plans to use your donation, including the services and individuals your donation will support. Find out more than just the cause. Being told only that your money will go “to fight COVID,” “support first responders,” or “support workers” does not tell you enough. Find out what organization or entity will receive the money and what programs it conducts or what services it provides.
    • Look Into Newly Formed Organizations Carefully. Often, in the aftermath of tragedies, new organizations emerge to meet community needs. While most of these organizations are well-intentioned, and some may provide innovative forms of assistance, some may not have the experience or infrastructure to follow through on their promises, and some may turn out to be scams.
    • Solicited by Email? Find Out Who is Soliciting. If you receive a solicitation by email, find out who is behind that email address. Contact the charity whose name is in the email or visit its website to find out if the email is really from the charity. Do not give personal information or your credit card number in response to an email solicitation unless you have checked out the charity.
    • Be Careful When Giving Through Social Media or other fundraising sites. As with other tragedies, social media sites are being used to raise money for victims of COVID-19 or charities. Before giving through these sites, research the identity of the organizer ofthe fundraising efforts and ask the same questions you would of a charity. Online platforms that host groups and individuals soliciting for causes may not thoroughly vet those who use their service. Donors should only give to campaigns conducted by people whom they know. Donors also should take a close look at the site’s FAQs and Terms and Conditions to see what fees will be charged. Also, don’t assume that charities recommended on social media sites, blogs, or other websites have already been vetted. Research the charity yourself to confirm that the charity is aware of the campaign and has given its approved permission for the use of its name or logo. If available, sign up for updates from the campaign organizer to keep abreast on how contributions to the campaign are being spent (i.e., if for meals for first responders, updates to demonstrate meals were purchased or if for “PPE” updates that show PPE being donated).
    • Exercise Caution Before You Text A Contribution. Check the charity’s website or call the charity to confirm it has authorized contributions to be made via text message.
    • Don't Give Cash. Give directly to the charity either by check made payable to the organization or through the charity's website.
    • Be Careful About Personal Information. Be cautious before giving credit card or personal information over the phone, by text message or via the Internet. In all cases, make sure you are familiar with the organization to which you give such information and check to see that the fundraising campaign is legitimate.
    • Report Suspicious Organizations. If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a fundraising or charitable scam is taking place, please contact the Charities Bureau at charities.complaints@ag.ny.gov.

    Price Gouging During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    New York’s price gouging statute, section 396-r of the New York General Business Law (GBL) prohibits charging unconscionably excessive prices for essential goods and services during periods of an abnormal disruption of the market. The statute applies to goods and services that are vital and necessary to the health, safety and welfare of consumers and the general public. These include:

    • Essential consumer goods and services provided primarily for personal, family or household purposes;
    • Essential medical supplies and services used for the care, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of illness or disease; and
    • Essential goods and services used to promote the health or welfare of the public.

    The statute prohibits price gouging by all parties in the chain of distribution. This includes retailers as well as manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors. The New York Attorney General is charged with enforcing the statute and may also promulgate rules and regulations.

    What are examples of consumer goods (used for personal, family, or household purposes) that are considered essential?

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Attorney General has considered the following consumer goods as essential:

    • Hand sanitizing products
    • Disinfectants (e.g., wipes, liquid, sprays)
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Toilet paper and tissues
    • Basic food supplies (e.g., milk, eggs, bread, rice, flour, yeast, etc.)
    • Infant formula, diapers, and baby food
    • Basic medications and supplies (e.g., over-the-counter medications, vitamins, thermometers, pulse oximeters, blood pressure cuffs, etc.)
    • Other essential products (e.g., adult diapers, feminine hygiene products, etc.)

    Because the CDC recommends that individuals wear “cloth face coverings” that consumers can make on their own, and not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, facemasks for personal, household, or family use are not being considered as subject to the state price gouging statute.

    What are examples of essential medical goods and goods necessary to promote the health and welfare of the public?

    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used by health care workers, including surgical facemasks, N-95 respirators, disposable medical gloves, disposable medical gowns, face shields, goggles, and ventilators.
    • Hand sanitizing products, disinfectants (wipes, liquid, sprays), and rubbing alcohol used in a health care facility or by businesses for use by their employees (e.g., restaurants, retail stores, pharmacies, etc.)

    What constitutes an unconscionably excessive price?

    • The amount charged represents a gross disparity between the price of the goods or services sold and their value measured by the price at which such consumer goods or services were sold or offered in the usual course of business immediately prior to the onset of the abnormal disruption of the market, or
    • The amount charged grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar goods or services were readily obtainable by other consumers in the trade area.

    What are the penalties for engaging in price gouging?

    Anyone engaging in price gouging may be required to make restitution to aggrieved consumers and is subject to a penalty of up to $25,000 for each violation or three times the gross receipts for the overcharged goods or services (whichever is greater).

    New York City Emergency Regulations

    Merchants in New York City must also comply with the emergency regulations currently in effect in New York City. Under the Rules of the City of New York (6 RCNY §5-38), stores are prohibited from selling items that have been declared in short supply at excessively increased prices. These items currently include the following: cleaning products, diagnostic products and services, disinfectants (e.g., wipes, liquids, sprays), facemasks, gloves, hand sanitizers, medicines, paper towels, rubbing alcohol, soap and tissues. For more information, visit the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.

    How to file a complaint about price gouging with the Attorney General: Consumers and Merchants?

    The Attorney General invites consumers and merchants to report instances of price gouging.

    Merchants who believe their distributors are charging unconscionably excessive prices for essential consumer goods or services can report such instances without fear of enforcement action by the Attorney General as long as the merchant has not also engaged in independent price gouging.

    Whether you are a consumer or merchant, if you have information about price-gouging under the New York state price gouging statute, you can submit a complaint to the Attorney General’s Office.

    Protecting Your Credit During the COVID-19 Crisis

    You can get help with your debt without hurting your credit score: 

    A new federal law, the CARES Act, protects consumers from incurring harm to their credit score as a result of obtaining relief from their creditors during the COVID-19 crisis.  The law provides that if you are affected by the COVID-19 crisis and request a forbearance or other modification of your loan, and your account was in good standing, you will not suffer harm to your credit during the period that you are receiving the accommodation.

    Who is protected from negative credit reporting:

    Borrowers who receive an accommodation because they are affected by the COVID-19 crisis and whose accounts were in “current” status prior to receiving an accommodation are protected from negative credit reporting on that account during the period of the accommodation. However, borrowers whose account was charged-off or that was in “delinquent” status prior to the granting of the accommodation are not eligible for this protection. The protection applies to mortgages, student loans, as well as other types of loans. 

    What should I do if a furnisher reports negative information about my account while I am receiving an accommodation?

    If you discover that a company has reported negative information about your account while you are receiving an accommodation, you have the right to dispute the negative information with the furnisher of the information and/or with the credit reporting agency.  If you are unable to resolve the issue through the dispute process, you should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

    You can request a free credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies to see if there is any erroneous information on your credit report. You have a right under federal law to one free credit report each year from each of the credit reporting agencies.  In addition, the three national credit reporting agencies recently announced that they will be making free credit reports available on a weekly basis until April 2021.

    To request a free credit report, visit Annual Credit Report or call (877)-322-8228. You can also request a free report on the websites of the three national credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. However, watch out for websites that claim to offer “free” credit reports, but actually require you to subscribe to a fee-based services in order to obtain the credit report.

    Guidance on American Rescue Plan Stimulus Payments

    New York Attorney General Letitia James is hereby issuing guidance to make clear that emergency stimulus payments authorized by the American Rescue Plan are exempt from garnishment under New York law, any creditor or debt collector that garnishes such payments has violated New York and federal law, and our office will aggressively prosecute such violations.  This guidance follows a similar guidance issued by the Attorney General in April 2020 with respect to CARES Act stimulus payments.

    Background

    On March 11, 2021 President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“American Rescue Plan”) to provide direct and immediate economic assistance to the millions of individuals and businesses who have been adversely effected by the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying national emergency. To that end, Section 9601 of the American Rescue Plan authorizes the U.S. Department of the Treasury to issue “Recovery Rebates,” one-time cash payments to eligible individuals up to $1,400 for an adult and $1,400 for a child.  These means-tested payments are intended to help struggling Americans provide for their basic needs during the COVID-19 crisis.

    Notwithstanding the emergency and life-sustaining purposes of these payments, the American Rescue Plan does not explicitly designate the payments as exempt from garnishment, as other government payments are.

    American Rescue Plan Payments Are Exempt from Garnishment Under New York Law

    Under New York law, certain types of property are exempt from execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, and other legal process by a judgment creditor seeking to satisfy a monetary judgment, including public benefits such as public assistance, social security, and veterans’ and retirement benefits. The New York Court of Appeals has held that exemption statutes “are to be construed liberally in favor of debtors” because exemptions “serve the important purpose of protect[ing] the debtor’s essential needs.”  The statutes exempting public benefits are not intended to be an exhaustive list of types of income exempt from garnishment; instead, they compiled the types of payments already deemed exempt by other statutes and granted additional protections to debtors with those types of income.

    American Rescue Plan payments are similarly aimed at a consumer’s essential needs, and therefore should not be subject to garnishment and similar legal process.  Banking institutions are advised that they should treat American Rescue Plan payments as subject to the same protections as statutorily exempt payments.

    The NYAG Will Treat – and Prosecute – Garnishment of American Rescue Plan Payments As a Violation of Local, State, and Federal Law

    New York Executive Law § 63(12) authorizes the NYAG to bring an action “[w]henever any person shall engage in repeated fraudulent or illegal acts or otherwise demonstrate persistent fraud or illegality in the carrying on, conducting or transaction of business.”  Similarly, Section 349 of New York’s General Business Law declares unlawful “[d]eceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any business, trade or commerce or in the furnishing of any service in this state,” and authorizes the NYAG to bring an action “to enjoin such unlawful acts or practices and to obtain restitution of any moneys or property obtained directly or indirectly by any such unlawful acts or practices.”  It is the NYAG’s position that American Rescue Plan payments are exempt from garnishment, and therefore any person who garnishes or attempts to garnish these payments has engaged in fraudulent or illegal conduct under Executive Law § 63(12) and deceptive conduct under General Business Law § 349.

    The NYAG’s position is that garnishment of American Rescue Plan payments would constitute “illegal acts” because such garnishment would violate:

    • The New York City Consumer Protection Law’s prohibition of false, deceptive, and misleading conduct. In addition, rules issued under the law prohibit “the representation or implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in . . . the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to pursue such action,” and “the threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken.”
    • New York General Business Law 601(8)’s prohibition of “claim[ing], or attempt[ing] or threaten[ing] to enforce a right with knowledge or reason to know that the right does not exist.”
    • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act’s prohibition of false, deceptive, or misleading conduct, including “[t]he representation or implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in the . . . seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action,” and “[t]he threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken.”
    • The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111–203, 124 Stat. 1376 (2010) (“Dodd-Frank”),which prohibits unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts or practices, and authorizes State Attorneys General to enforce these prohibitions. Under Dodd-Frank, an act or practice is unfair if it “causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers” and “such substantial injury is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.” An act or practice is abusive if it:
    1. Materially interferes with the ability of a consumer to understand a term or condition of a consumer financial product or service; or
    2. Takes unreasonable advantage of –
      • A lack of understanding on the part of the consumer of the material risks, costs, or conditions of the product or service;
      • The inability of the consumer to protect the interests of the consumer in selecting or using a consumer financial product or service; or
      • The reasonable reliance by the consumer on a covered person to act in the interests of the consumer.

    The NYAG will treat garnishment of American Rescue Plan payments as unfair and abusive under Dodd-Frank.  In addition, any person who knowingly or recklessly provides substantial assistance to a creditor or debt collector in garnishing American Rescue Plan payments will face aiding and abetting liability under Dodd-Frank.

    Under certain circumstances, New York law may permit a bank to seize funds in a consumer’s account at the bank to pay a debt owed to the bank. This is known as a bank’s right of setoff.  It is the NYAG’s position that, because American Rescue Plan payments are exempt from garnishment, they are also exempt from setoffs, and such setoffs would be unfair and abusive.  The NYAG urges all financial institutions to follow the lead of the nation’s largest financial institutions, which have committed to ensuring that consumers are able to access the full value of their stimulus payments.

    Scope of This Guidance

    This guidance only addresses the exemption for payments authorized by the American Rescue Plan.  This guidance does not express an opinion on any other exemptions, the meaning of the term “public assistance” in other statutes, or the status of American Rescue Plan payments in other contexts. 

    This guidance does not apply to any actions taken by the State of New York, including, but not limited to, any actions to collect past due child support. 

     

    COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020 Stimulus Payments

    On December 27, 2020 the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which included the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020. This is the second stimulus package enacted by Congress, following the March 2020 CARES Act.

    The COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020 directs the IRS to send emergency stimulus payments (also called “recovery rebates” and “economic impact payments”) to individuals to provide for their basic needs. .

    The IRS has not yet released any information about the payments, and we will update these FAQs as more information becomes available. You can also check for updates at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus-tax-relief-and-economic-impact-payments

    How much are the stimulus payments?

    Eligible adults will receive up to $600 ($1,200 for married couples), plus $600 for each child age 16 or under.

    Who is eligible to receive stimulus payments?

    • U.S. residents who are not claimed as a dependent, have a Social Security number, and have adjusted gross income for 2019 up to $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for head of household filers, and $150,000 for married couples who file jointly.
    • Married couples are only eligible for $1,200 payments if both people are U.S. residents. If only one is a U.S. resident, the couple will receive $600 (unless one person is in the military, in case the couple will receive the full $1,200).
    • Recipients of Social Security, Railroad Retirement, disability, veterans, or Supplemental Security Income benefits.
    • What do I need to do to receive a stimulus payment?

      • The IRS has not yet released any information about distribution of the payments. Based on the way the IRS distributed CARES Act stimulus payments, it is likely that most people do not need to do anything to receive a payment. No action is likely needed for:
        • Individuals who received a CARES Act stimulus payment.
        • Individuals who filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019.
        • Recipients of Social Security, Railroad Retirement, disability, veterans, or Supplemental Security Income benefits.
      • We will update these FAQs once the IRS releases more information.

      How will I receive my stimulus payment?

      • The IRS has not yet released any information about distribution of the payments. Based on the way the IRS distributed CARES Act stimulus payments, it is likely that you will receive your payment the same way you receive benefits and tax refunds (direct deposit or paper check by mail).
      • We will update these FAQs once the IRS releases more information.

      When can I expect to receive my stimulus payment?

      • The IRS is expected to begin sending the payments within weeks, but has yet to release any timelines.
      • We will update these FAQs once the IRS releases more information.

      Can a creditor or debt collector take my stimulus payment because of an old debt? 

      • No. The Act prohibits creditors and debt collectors from taking (or “garnishing”) stimulus payments for unpaid debts, and requires financial institutions to comply with federal regulations requiring financial institutions to treat the payments as exempt in the same manner as other public benefit payments.
      • If you believe your stimulus payment was unlawfully taken, you should file a complaint with our office.

      I’m on Medicaid and live in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Can they take my stimulus check?

      • No! Even if a government program such as Medicaid covers part or all of your nursing home bills, your nursing home cannot take your stimulus payment. 
      • If your nursing home or assisted living facility took your stimulus payment (or tried to take it), you should file a complaint with our office.

      Protecting CARES Act Stimulus Payments from Debt Collectors

      Guidance issued by the Attorney General's Office is based on multiple state and federal consumer protection laws and clarifies that any attempt to garnish Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) stimulus funds from New Yorkers will be treated as a violation of these laws.

      Under New York law, certain types of property — including public benefits like public assistance, Social Security, and veterans’ and retirement benefits — are exempt from execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process by a judgment creditor seeking to satisfy a monetary judgment. The New York State Court of Appeals has held that exemption statutes "are to be construed liberally in favor of debtors" because exemptions "serve the important purpose of protect[ing] the debtor’s essential needs."

      CARES Act payments are similarly aimed at debtors' or borrowers' essential needs and — under this guidance — will therefore be treated and are subject to the same protections as statutorily exempt payments, and will not be subject to garnishment — a legal mechanism that typically involves the "freezing" of funds in a bank account by creditors or debt collectors. The OAG guidance advises banking institutions that CARES Act payments will follow similar legal processes as other public benefits, and any person or entity that garnishes or attempts to garnish these payments will have violated multiple state and federal consumer protection laws.

    Reporting Hate Crimes

    The OAG has launched a hotline for New Yorkers to report hate crimes and bias-based incidents. The hotline, which will continue indefinitely, comes in the wake of rising reports of harassment and assaults, as well as rhetoric against Asian Americans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The OAG urges anyone experiencing hate crimes and bias incidences to report them by emailing the OAG’s Civil Rights Bureau at civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or by calling 1-800-771-7755.

    Help for Homeowners Who Are Having Trouble Paying Their Mortgage

    Forbearances of Mortgage Payments

    Forbearance Under the Federal CARES Act (only applicable to federally-backed mortgages)

    Forbearance Under New York law (applicable to mortgages that are not federally-backed)

    Pause on Foreclosure Court Filings

    Be Wary of Scams to “Save Your Home”

    Resources for Homeowners

    Forbearances of Mortgage Payments

    Both federal and state law now permit homeowners to enter into forbearance agreements with their mortgage servicer if they are facing a COVID-related hardship, such as loss of a job. A mortgage servicer is the company that your lender (or the entity that later purchased your loan from your original lender) hires to conduct the day-to-day work of processing mortgage payments, issuing monthly statements, interacting with homeowners, and if necessary, reviewing homeowners for modifications and forbearances.

    If you enter into a forbearance agreement, you will not have to make mortgage payments during the period covered by the agreement. However, this does not mean that your payments during this period are forgiven, they will be deferred. A forbearance will not be reported negatively on your credit report and you will not be charged late fees during the forbearance period.  If you are facing a COVID- related hardship, you should reach out to your mortgage servicer as soon as possible to request a forbearance of your monthly mortgage payments - this process is not automatic. Get more information about identifying your mortgage services and their contact information.

    Forbearances Under the Federal CARES Act (only applicable to federally-backed mortgages)

    If you have a federally-backed mortgage (how do I know if I have a federally-back mortgage?) and have a COVID-19 related hardship, your servicer is required to enter into a forbearance agreement with you that allows you to defer making your monthly mortgage payments.

    • For homeowners with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage, you can defer making payments for up to fifteen (15) months;

    For homeowners with an FHA mortgage, VA mortgage or USDA mortgage, you can defer making payments for up to twelve (12) months. However, if you first entered into a COVID-related forbearance on or before June 30, 2020, you can defer making payments for up to eighteen (18) months. Many servicers will grant forbearances in increments, usually three months at a time. You must contact your servicer by phone or through its website and explain that you have a COVID-related hardship.  No documentation is required, your verbal affirmation is sufficient. If your hardship continues after your forbearance period ends, you must request a new forbearance agreement from your servicer, however, again, you are limited to the maximum amount of missed mortgage payments listed above.

    How do I know if I have a federally-backed mortgage?

    Federally-backed mortgages include the following:

    • Loans that Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac purchased from your original lender.
    • Loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA loans are also known as Rural Development (RD) or Rural Housing Service (RHS) mortgages.
    • Reverse mortgages insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which are called Home Equity Conversion Mortgages or HECMs.

    To find out if you have a federally-backed mortgage, call your mortgage servicer or check your mortgage statement, which sometimes lists the loan type. For Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac you can also check online or call.

    Fannie Mae or call 1-800-2FANNIE (8am to 8pm EST)

    Freddie Mac or call 1-800-FREDDIE (8am to 8pm EST)

    Forbearance under New York law (applicable to mortgages that are not federally-backed):

    Under N.Y. Banking Law § 9-x, which went into effect on June 17, 2020, regulated banking organizations and mortgage servicers supervised by New York’s Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) must provide up to one year (365 days) of forbearance relief to homeowners who experience a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.  Banking Law § 9-x generally provides forbearance relief for New York homeowners undergoing a COVID-related hardship, except for those homeowners with a federally-backed loan (who are entitled to comparable relief under the CARES Act).  If you are not sure whether Banking Law § 9-x covers your loan, you should contact your servicer to ask.

    You must contact your mortgage servicer - by phone or through its website - to request a forbearance.  Your servicer may ask you to submit documentation of your hardship to approve your forbearance request. Servicers are also prohibited from reporting late payments to credit agencies, must waive late fees and online payment fees for the duration of the and must allow mortgagors an additional 90-day grace period to complete trial loan modifications.

    The obligation to grant a one-year forbearance pursuant to Banking Law § 9-x is subject to the regulated institution having sufficient capital and liquidity to meet its obligations and operate in a safe and sound matter.  Banking Law 9-x permits a regulated institution to deny a request for a forbearance if it determines that such relief would threaten the company’s financial solvency.  However, the institution must provide notice to DFS with information regarding its financial condition.  To date, the OAG is not aware of any servicers who have claimed that they are unable to offer the relief required under Banking Law § 9-x.  However, the OAG wants to hear from any homeowners who have been denied a forbearance agreement or post-forbearance relief due to this provision in the law. If you are denied forbearance relief by a servicer who claims it will threaten the company’s financial soundness, please submit a complaint to the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

    How do I ask for a forbearance?

    Visit your mortgage servicer’s website or call your mortgage servicer if you think you will have trouble paying your mortgage and inform them that you cannot make your payment because of a financial hardship related to COVID-19. If you call, make sure to request forbearance.

    How do I know who my mortgage servicer is and how do I contact the servicer?

    Look at the last monthly statement you received. The company listed on that statement is your current mortgage servicer. There should also be a customer service number that you can call. However, we strongly encourage you to check your mortgage servicer’s website first. Many mortgage servicers have a special section on COVID-19-related relief on their website, and many are encouraging their customers to reach out electronically because of large call volumes and potential wait times. You may even be able to request a forbearance through their website.

    What happens after the forbearance period ends? Must I immediately repay the missed payments?

    Missed payments become due when the forbearance period expires, and you will need to agree with your mortgage servicer in advance on the terms of repayment. However, there are a variety of rules and programs that require your servicer to work with you to help you get back on track. The specific rules vary depending on who owns, insures, and/or services your loan.

    Your servicer may ask if you can pay back the missed payments as a lump sum at the end of your forbearance plan or spread out the missed payments over a number of months. However, many borrowers affected by the current financial crisis will not be able to repay their missed payments all at once. If you cannot afford those options, you are entitled to ask for further assistance, such as a payment deferral, term extension or loan modification, so that you do not default on your loan or risk losing your home to foreclosure.

    Depending on who owns, insures, and/or services your loan, your servicer may be able to offer you certain types of loan modifications that are designed to help homeowners who cannot repay all missed payments at once. For example, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA all provide programs that help homeowners get back on track without paying all the missed payments at once. And now, under Banking Law § 9-x, then New Yorkers without a federally-backed loan should be entitled to comparable post-forbearance options.  You can find more information about these programs below.

    **Post-forbearance options for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans

    • Your servicer is required to offer you one of the two COVID-19-related modifications at the end of the forbearance period if you are unable to pay the missed payments as one lump sum and you were current on your mortgage (or no more than 30 days behind) when the emergency was declared on March 13, 2020. You are not required to submit a complete loss mitigation application for these COVID-19-related modifications.
    • Payment Deferral: If you are able to resume your regular monthly payments once your forbearance period is over, but cannot pay back all of your missed payments, your servicer should offer you a modification that will take your missed payments and add them as a non-interest bearing balloon payment due at the end of your mortgage. To be eligible for this modification, you must have been current or no more than 31 days delinquent as of March 1, 2020.
    • Flex Modification: If your hardship is permanent and you are not able to resume your monthly payments at their prior amount, your servicer must review you for a Flex Modification which seeks to lower your monthly mortgage payments.  You may receive this modification even if you were more than 31 days behind on your mortgage as of March 1, 2020. However, you may have to provide some documentation of your reduced income.

    If you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage and believe that you have been unlawfully denied a COVID-19-related modification, please file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

    Visit Fannie Mae for more information on available post-forbearance modifications.

    Visit Freddie Mac for more information on available post-forbearance modifications.

    **Post-forbearance options for FHA loans

    • If you were current on your mortgage when the COVID-19 emergency was declared on March 13, 2020 (or no more than 30 days behind), but are unable to pay back the missed payments from your forbearance plan as one lump sum when the forbearance is over, your mortgage servicer must offer you a COVID-19 National Emergency Standalone Partial Claim which places the missed payments at the end of the mortgage, due as a lump sum.
    • If you are unable to resume paying your regular monthly mortgage payments at the end of your forbearance, then you may apply for an FHA-HAMP modification. An FHA-HAMP modification seeks to modify your mortgage to create an affordable monthly payment. There is no requirement that you were current on your mortgage at the time the COVID-19 emergency was declared. You can request the help of a free housing counselor in putting together an application by calling call the Home Ownership Protection Program at 1-855-HOME-456 (1-855-466-3456).

    If you have an FHA mortgage and believe that you were unlawfully denied a COVID-19 National Emergency Standalone Partial Claim, please file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

    Visit FHA for more information on its forbearance and post-forbearance options.

    **Post-forbearance options for VA loans

    • Mortgage servicers are prohibited from requiring homeowners to pay the missed payments from the forbearance period as one lump sum.
    • If you are able to resume making your pre-COVID-19 monthly mortgage payments at the end of the forbearance, mortgage servicers may place the missed payments at the end of the mortgage as a non-interest-bearing balloon payment.
    • If you are not able to resume making their pre-COVID-19 monthly mortgage payments at the end of the forbearance, or the servicer decided not to offer you the option of making a balloon payment at the end of the loan, the mortgage servicer must review you for all of the VA’s loss mitigation options, including repayment plans, traditional loan modifications, and disaster-related loan modifications.
    • For repayment plans and traditional loan modifications, there is no requirement that you were current on your mortgage when the COVID-19 emergency was declared. However, for the disaster-related loan modifications, you had to have been current (or no more than 30 days behind) on your mortgage when the COVID-19 emergency was declared on March 13, 2020.
    • Visit the VA for more information about its forbearance and post-forbearance options.

    **Post-forbearance options for RD or RHS loans (USDA loans)

    • If you are able to resume making your pre-COVID-19 monthly mortgage payments, the mortgage servicer may consider you for either a repayment plan or may extend the loan term for a period that is at least the length of the forbearance.
    • If you are not able to resume making your pre-COVID-19 monthly mortgage payments, the mortgage servicer must consider you for all the USDA loss mitigation options, including its traditional loan modification products.
    • For the USDA’s traditional loan modification productions, there is no requirement that you were current on your mortgage at the time the COVID-19 emergency was declared.
    • Visit the USDA for more information about its forbearance and post forbearance options.

    **Post-forbearance options for non-federally-backed loans

    • Banking Law § 9-x gives covered homeowners the right to request an affordable repayment plan at the end of their forbearance.
    • Resumption of Monthly Payments: If you are able to resume your regular monthly payments once your forbearance period is over, but cannot pay back all of your missed payments, you can ask for one of two products: (i) extend your loan for the length of the forbearance; or (ii) spread out the forborne payments on a monthly basis over the remaining term of the loan (this may increase your monthly payment);
    • Reduced Payments: If you are unable to resume your regular monthly payments, you may negotiate a loan modification that meets your changed circumstances.
    • If you and your and loan servicer cannot agree on an acceptable loan modification, then Banking Law § 9-x requires servicers to defer arrears accumulated during the forbearance as a non-interest-bearing balloon due when the loan comes due or is satisfied (through a sale or refinance).

    The Attorney General wants to make sure that mortgage servicers are helping borrowers to resume payments after a hardship related to the COVID-19 crisis. If you are having trouble getting clear information from your servicer, are not getting appropriate assistance with a repayment plan or loan modification, or are being told that you must pay the missed forbearance payments as one lump sum, please let the Attorney General know by filing a complaint.

    Pause on Foreclosure Court Filings

    New York has also taken steps to pause the foreclosure process in our state courts in order to protect homeowners from losing their home to foreclosure during the COVID-19 crisis. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about this pause on foreclosure proceedings.

    I fell behind on my mortgage because of COVID-19 will I be sued in court?

    No as long as you mail or email to your mortgage servicer a “Hardship Declaration.” Under the new COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020(“NYS Foreclosure Prevention Act”), if a homeowner submits a Hardship Declaration, the mortgage company cannot bring a foreclosure action before May 1, 2021. This applies to all mortgages except for those issued, insured, purchased or securitized by New York State (usually known as a SONYMA mortgage).

    You can download the Foreclosure Hardship Declaration here: https://www.nycourts.gov/eefpa/".

    You should call your mortgage servicer to find out the mailing address or email address where you should send the Hardship Declaration

    Because the NYS Foreclosure Prevention Act just went into effect on December 28, 2020, all foreclosure proceedings are automatically paused for 60 days (from December 28, 2020).

    If you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage, you cannot be sued in foreclosure before March 31, 2021; you do not need to submit a Hardship Declaration. If you have an FHA or VA mortgage that pause on foreclosure proceedings extends through June 30, 2021 and also does not require a Hardship Declaration. However, if you are not sure what type of mortgage you have or need the pause on foreclosure proceedings to extend to May 1, 2021, you should submit a Hardship Declaration to your mortgage servicer. It does not hurt to submit a Hardship Declaration when in doubt.

    Can I be served with a pre-foreclosure notice?

    You may receive a pre-foreclosure notice stating the mortgage servicer intends to sue you in foreclosure. Under the NYS Foreclosure Prevention Act, the pre-foreclosure notice must now also include the Hardship Declaration and the mailing and email address to send it to. Again, once you send the Hardship Declaration in to the servicer, the servicer is not allowed to sue you in foreclosure before May 1, 2021. You should keep a copy or picture of the signed form for your records.

    If you do receive this pre-foreclosure notice and would like to know your options, you can call the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) at 1-855-HOME-456 (1-855-466-3456) for free advice.

    I was already sued in foreclosure before the COVID-19 emergency was declared. What happened to my case?

    If you are currently experiencing a COVID-related hardship, your foreclosure case cannot move forward as long as you submit a Hardship Declaration to the court. Under the NYS Foreclosure Prevention Act, even if you were sued in foreclosure before COVID-19, if you now have a hardship as a result of COVID-19 and you submit a Hardship Declaration, the mortgage servicer cannot move the case forward until May 1, 2021.

    The Office of Court Administration is in the process of mailing a Hardship Declaration to every homeowner sued in foreclosure. However, you can download the Foreclosure Hardship Declaration here: https://www.nycourts.gov/eefpa/.

    Because the NYS Foreclosure Prevention Act passed on December 28, 2020, the Hardship Declaration is currently unavailable, foreclosure proceedings are automatically paused for 60 days.

    If you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage, your case is automatically paused until March 31, 2021; you do not need to submit a Hardship Declaration. If you have an FHA or VA mortgage that pause on foreclosure proceedings extends throughJune 30, 2021 and also does not require a Hardship Declaration. However, if you are not sure what type of mortgage you have or need the pause on foreclosure proceedings to extend to May 1, 2021, you should submit a Hardship Declaration to the court and your mortgage servicer. It does not hurt to submit a Hardship Declaration when in doubt.

    If you would like free advice regarding the status of your case, please call the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) at 1-855-HOME-456 (1-855-466-3456).

    I was issued a court date to appear previously and it is coming up. Should I go to court?

    If you are represented by an attorney, you should call your attorney.

    If you are not represented by an attorney, you should call the court and ask what you should do in light of the new law, the NYS Foreclosure Prevention Act. You can find the number for the Court by looking up the phone number for the Supreme Court in the county where your home is located.

    Be Wary of Scams to “Save Your Home”

    Homeowners should always be wary of unsolicited calls where the caller claims to be able to save their home or where they ask for any personal information. Offers to save your home for a fee are fraudulent. Neither the banks, nor HUD-approved housing counseling agencies will charge a fee for assistance. 

    To protect yourself from being scammed:

    • Be skeptical of online ads or telephone solicitations that promise they can get you a mortgage modification or save your home from foreclosure. Only your bank or loan servicer can approve a loan modification.
    • Do not give your personal financial information to a solicitor, such as your bank account number, social security number, or the name of your loan servicer. Your bank will already have this information.
    • Never pay an up-front fee for mortgage-related services. It is a violation of New York law to charge upfront fees for such services, and violations should be reported to the Attorney General’s office at 1-800-771-7755.

    If you believe you have been scammed by a foreclosure rescue operator or a debt relief organization, submit a complaint to the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

    Resources for Homeowners