More Than 400 Broome County Residents Apply For NY Rental Assistance Program

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — At the start of the month, New York opened applications for emergency rental assistance. As of Friday, Broome County residents submitted more than 400 applications for back and prospective rent so far.

Nancy Williams, Commissioner of the Broome County Department of Social Services (DSS), said it is critical that tenants and landlords in Upstate counties apply before the end of June.

Tenants’ rights advocates demonstrate outside the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston. An estimated 8.8 million Americans are behind on their rent, according the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Michael Dwyer/AP Photo, File)

The legislation that created the program dictated that a minimum of 35 percent of the funds are reserved for applicants outside of New York City, but only through its first 30 days.

“My biggest concern right now is that Broome County landlords and residents get the money that’s available through the federal government, because when it’s gone, it’s gonna be gone,” Williams stressed.

New York received $2.6 billion from the federal government to distribute for rent relief. The state contributed another $100 million to the program.

441 households applied for rent arrears, or back rent, through Friday, with more than 200 applications sent in on the program’s first day, Williams said.

Residents who are eligible can access assistance for up to 12 months of back rent that was due since the start of the pandemic and up to three months of prospective rent, as well as up to 12 months of unpaid utility fees.

The New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which oversees the program, has not yet released detailed breakdowns of the applications. Williams said she has not received any demographic data on applicants, nor information on which benefits applicants requested on a single application.

The county did report 408 applicants asked for prospective rental assistance, as well as 128 applications for utility arrears. Williams, however, said those were likely asked for by applicants already included in the 441 households looking for back rent payments.

Those numbers are good, Williams added, but she doesn’t know whether those applications will be approved by the state.

“We want to see how much money is coming to Broome County to landlords, because what we’ve been hearing is landlords have been struggling to be able to pay their taxes, pay their mortgages,” Williams said.

Data broken down by zip code showed the largest share of Broome County applications came from the City of Binghamton and the Town of Union, where there are higher concentrations of rental units. Just over 30 percent of all rent arrear applications came from the zip code 13760, which encompasses parts of Union, the Town of Maine and Campville in Tioga County.

According to a 2017 study by the county’s industrial development agency, more than half of homes in Binghamton and the Village of Endicott, which is part of Union, are rental units.

The program will reach its 30th day at the end of the month. Between that looming date and the expiration of New York’s eviction moratorium at the end of August, Williams said tenants and landlords should get their applications in as soon as possible.

To qualify, applicants must either:

  • Have a household gross income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), either currently or in the 2020 calendar year.
  • Have a member of the household who, on or after March 13, 2020, received unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs or experienced financial hardship, directly or indirectly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Be obligated to pay rent at their primary residence and have back rent their current residence for rent owed on or after March 13, 2020.
  • Be part of a household that is at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, which can be demonstrated by having rental arrears owed on or after March 13, 2020.

For the first 30 days, the program will prioritize applicants with incomes at or below 50 percent of the AMI and also have a member of their household who fits one or more of the following criteria:

  • Is currently unemployed for at least 90 days
  • Is a veteran
  • Is currently experiencing domestic violence or is a survivor of human trafficking
  • Has an eviction case related to their current residence pending in court
  • Resides in a mobile home
  • Lives in a community that was disproportionately impacted by COVID-19
  • Lives in a dwelling of 20 or fewer units

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.