Stephen Maturen / Getty ImagesRep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) speaks on Nov. 9, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Stephen Maturen / Getty Images)
Days after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez pushed for “rent cancellation” across the country, tens thousands of Americans prepared to take part in one of the biggest rent strikes in history.
Ocasio-Cortez said Monday that the people planning to participate in the strike had no other choice.
“People aren’t striking because they don’t feel like paying rent. People are striking because they can’t pay rent,” the New York Democrat said in a Monday call with housing advocates and tenants organizers.
“You cannot coerce someone into doing something that they cannot do. There is no money in the bank. People need to feed their kids.”
Activists in New York, Pennsylvania and California are encouraging tenants not to pay rent in May to bring attention to those who cannot afford it.
About 8,000 members of the Los Angeles Tenants Union are expected to withhold rent, NBC News reported, with Philadelphia activists planning a similar movement.
Tens of thousands of people across the country are reported to be part of what organizers believe will be the largest coordinated rent strikes in decades.
Ocasio-Cortez called for rent cancellation for the tenants struggling to pay their bills during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need to make sure that rent cancellation happens on the state and federal level,” she said.
The representative said that she has been in discussions with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to try to make this happen.
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She also is co-sponsoring the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act proposed by Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, which would cancel rent and mortgage payments nationwide until a month after the national emergency is lifted.
“The coronavirus crisis is more than just a public health crisis — it’s an economic crisis. Minnesotans are losing jobs, getting their hours reduced, and struggling just to put food on the table,” Omar said in a media release.
“We must take major action to protect the health and economic security of the most vulnerable, including the millions of Americans currently at risk of housing instability and homelessness.”
In March, Cuomo suspended evictions for 90 days to prevent landlords from expelling tenants who cannot pay rent, according to The Guardian. California Gov. Gavin Newsom took similar action by barring evictions with proof that a tenant’s income has been affected by the pandemic.
Housing Justice for All, a tenants rights advocacy group, says that suspending evictions just postpones the problem.
“An eviction moratorium is an urgent first step, but we need a suspension of rent and automatic forgiveness of any rent, mortgage, or utility payment owed or accumulated during the length of this crisis,” the group says on its website.
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