“Obviously I can’t offer much help by myself,” he said. “But in the spirit and memory of my late grandmother, I’m paying one month’s rent for all 160 apartments in the [New York City Housing Authority] building she lived in.”
Che joins the ranks of other celebrities who have donated in connection with the coronavirus pandemic in one way or another. Some famous landlords, such as actors Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, have given tenants a break on April rent. Others, like Kylie Jenner and musician John Mayer, have donated money to help hospitals buy medical supplies such as gloves, masks and ventilators.
Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic shut down workplaces nationwide, putting a strain on families who cannot afford to pay bills because of the sudden loss of income. The virus’s impact has been particularly brutal in New York, the main hotbed of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, where more than one in 100 people have been infected and more than 14,000 have died.
Che said the building in which his grandmother, Martha, lived for years holds a meaningful place in his family’s history, even though his grandmother moved out of the public housing building in the 1990s. That is why he chose to pay rent for the 160 people who live there now.
He discussed Martha’s death during the recent episode of “SNL” hosted by Tom Hanks, who was one of the first major celebrities to catch the coronavirus and recently recovered from covid-19. During the “Weekend Update” segment taped via Zoom, Che told co-star Colin Jost that coming back to work had helped him feel better.
“I’m doing OK, considering,” he wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post announcing his grandmother’s death. “I’m obviously very hurt and angry that she had to go through all that pain alone. But I’m also happy that she’s not in pain anymore.”
Although New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) ordered a 90-day moratorium on evictions in the state, people are still expected to pay rent in April, May and June. New York City landlords anticipated that up to 40 percent of tenants would be unable to pay rent in April, the New York Times reported, with many losing their jobs or enduring pay cuts because of social distancing measures.
Renters have been advised to talk to their landlords about their options if they cannot afford rent. But there is no universal policy in place other than the reprieve from evictions while the stay-at-home order is in place in New York City.
The “SNL” cast member urged Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) to take further action to offer relief to the city’s poorest residents who cannot afford to pay rent under the city’s stay-at-home order.
The comedian wrote on Instagram, “its crazy to me that residents of public housing are still expected to pay their rent when so many new yorkers cant even work.”