“Saturday Night Live” star Michael Che lost his grandmother to the novel coronavirus last week. And he’s honoring her memory by covering one month’s rent for her old neighbors in a New York City public housing building.
The “Weekend Update” host revealed in a now-deleted Instagram post last week that his grandmother, Martha, died April 5 after contracting the coronavirus disease COVID-19. And he also signed off from “Weekend Update” during the first-ever “SNL: At Home” edition on Saturday as “Martha’s grandbaby.”
Che said that his grandmother moved out of the New York City Housing Authority building in the 1990s. Now he’s covering the rent for all 160 units in the complex to honor her spirit and memory, as well as to raise awareness for the millions of unemployed Americans struggling to make ends meet right now.
In another Instagram post, Che said, “It’s crazy to me that residents of public housing are still expected to pay their rent when so many New Yorkers can’t even work.” He added: “I know that’s just a drop in the bucket, so I really hope the city has a better plan for debt forgiveness for all the people in public housing.” He ended the post by calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs to help. “Let’s fix this! Page me!”
The post had drawn more than 3,500 comments by press time, and 76,000 “likes” and counting. It also led Che to trend on Twitter on Thursday morning.
Che himself grew up in a housing project on Allen Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and has held fundraisers for NYCHA residents. “You go without heat. You go without food. You go without doorknobs. You go without everything. Elevators don’t work. There was grease and oil inside the elevators to keep off graffiti, but then you couldn’t touch the wall,” he told the New York Times last year. “And the thing is, it’s all fixable! We can do something about this.”
Nearly a third of American renters missed their April rent payments, and the number of coronavirus-related layoffs has swelled to more than 20 million as jobless claims climbed another 5.25 million last week.
And while stimulus checks of up to $1,200 for adults, $2,400 for married couples and $500 per child are starting to hit many Americans’ bank accounts this week, to the great relief of many, one in three Americans say the one-time payment won’t cover their expenses for even a month.
New York City announced a $170 million campaign to feed the hungry on Wednesday, and de Blasio also asked the state government to extend a moratorium on evictions until 60 days after the coronavirus state of emergency ends, and to give renters hit by pandemic-related job losses up to a year to pay their back rent.