New York asks Biden Administration for $1B in additional rent relief funds

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NEW YORK NOW – New York is asking the federal government for an additional $996 million in emergency rent relief funding after the state’s initial allocation of more than $2 billion didn’t meet the needs of tenants struggling to pay rent during the pandemic.

The Hochul administration said Friday that the money wouldn’t go to waste; several applications for rent relief have been put on hold because of high demand for what funding is left.

“While New York accelerated getting rent relief out the door and moved from the back of the pack to the front amongst other states, there are still many individuals in need of assistance,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

New York is one of just a handful of states that have exhausted the rent relief funding allocated to them by the federal government. Most states have doled out less than a third of what they were given.

So far, the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the agency that’s run New York’s program, has approved about 165,000 applications for rent relief, according to the agency. At the same time, New York has received more than 280,000 applications for that funding.

Most of the state’s delegation in Congress signed on to a letter Friday, urging the Biden administration to approve the request. Of New York’s 27 members of Congress, 17 were included on the letter.

“New York State has more renters than any other state in the country, and many households

have been struggling to pay rent since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter reads. “The State has clearly demonstrated its need and eligibility for an allocation of additional funds.”

The program, called the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, was set up this year to provide relief for tenants who couldn’t pay rent because of a financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the start of the program, it fell under scrutiny because the state had taken a few months to set it up after it was passed into law, and then more time to begin the application process, leaving tenants in limbo.

The funding was released slowly at first, prompting more criticism, but then accelerated in August, when Hochul took office. She had made it a top priority in the first weeks of her administration.

The state has since closed the application process, given that there isn’t more funding to give out at the moment.

The Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit legal services organization in New York City, said the state should’ve left the application process open to avoid a messy restart, plagued by the same bureaucracy that befell it earlier this year.

“This move is premature, and closing the ERAP portal with demand for relief still high will traumatize our clients still in need of these critical funds,” said Judith Goldiner from the Legal Aid Society.

“Given ERAP’s botched application launch this past year, we are concerned that any re-launch will encounter the same issues only to further discourage families from applying. Moreover, we expect that any re-launch will occur after the eviction moratorium expires in early 2022, leaving families susceptible to eviction.”

New York’s eviction moratorium is set to expire in January.