ALBANY, NY (WSKG)—Responding to complaints by New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, about the state’s slowest-in-the-nation rate of distributing federal rent relief dollars, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a new streamlined application process for tenants begins Tuesday.
Schumer, who is the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, said over the weekend that the state was in danger of losing $2.4 billion in federal aid due to delays by the Cuomo administration in getting out the rent relief.
“We are calling on the state of New York to get the money out to the tenants now,” Schumer said.
According to Schumer, New York is last among the 50 states in distributing the money, and he wrote a letter to Cuomo asking for changes. He said if the money does not get distributed to tenants by the end of September, New York might have to forfeit the funds.
Applicants have complained that the site is plagued by technical glitches. Cuomo said a new streamlined application process will be put in place Tuesday to “help eliminate potential barriers for eligible New Yorkers to receive funding.”
The governor said if the application process has been slow, it’s because his administration wants to make sure that it catches potential cases of fraud.
“You want to make sure you give the money to the people who need it most,” Cuomo said. “And there’s no fraud and no scam.”
The governor did not address criticism of the current system, but he said the 4,828 cases that are under review will be completed by Aug. 3.
The timing is crucial because a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic ends on Aug. 31, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers owe several months’ worth of back rent.
In a statement, a spokesman for the state agency responsible for distributing the money, said $700,000 in federal rent relief was given out on Monday.
“Nearly $700,000 in rent relief payments were made today to New Yorkers after opening the program to applications within weeks of enactment in April, and payments are now expected to be provided daily,” said Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance spokesman Anthony Farmer.
Farmer said the program that was agreed to with the Legislature set an initial 30-day period that prioritized the neediest applicants. He said any tenant who has submitted a complete application, even if they have not yet received the money, are protected from eviction.