BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—While New York continues to roll out its Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), the City of Binghamton has its own fund to prevent evictions and is encouraging more households to apply.
The close to $1 million pool comes from the federal CARES Act passed in March last year. Even though applications for the COVID-19 rent relief fund have been open since late last summer, Binghamton Mayor Rich David said more than 75 percent it has yet to be allocated.
“We’re all concerned that there’s just going to be a bottleneck or a rush at the last minute when people realize that these moratoriums are not going to be extended, and that’s when the real impact is going to be seen,” David said.
The mayor hopes to get the money out the door quickly, before New York’s eviction moratorium expires at the end of August.
Residents eligible for the city’s rental assistance program must have experienced a COVID-19-related hardship, such as a loss of income or employment since March 2020 and earn either equal to or less than 50 percent of the Area Median Income.
Tenants who qualify can get money to cover up to three months of back rent.
Chastity McEwen, Director of Housing and Community Services for the Family Enrichment Network, is helping the city administer the funds. According to McEwen, tenants who receive payments through the program also get three months of targeted support services from the agency, such as help with finding employment, food assistance and child care.
“We can help them with all kinds of additional services either within the agency or outside of the agency, but part of what we do is support them holistically and as a whole, the family, not just specifically rent,” McEwen said.
64 Binghamton families have received rental assistance from the city so far and, as of Monday, approximately $112,500 of the city’s total CARES Act allocation for rental assistance had been spent, according to city officials.
Binghamton’s rent arrears program is scaled back compared to New York’s $2.7 billion program, both in terms of the number of applicants and the size of awards. Applicants for ERAP are eligible for up to 12 months of rent arrears payments and up to three months of prospective rent. More than 160,000 New Yorkers have applied so far, including at least 1,100 in Broome County.
McEwen said that in most cases, households owe more rent than the three months the Binghamton fund is offering.
Case managers at the Family Enrichment Network will refer Binghamton tenants who are six or more months behind on their rent to the Broome County Department of Social Services, which has been helping tenants fill out their ERAP applications since they opened in June.
“So that they’re able to get more support and financial assistance rather than simply the three months,” she added.
Tenants applying for ERAP can also apply for local COVID-19 rent relief, according to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which is administering the program statewide. Tenants who apply to multiple sources of rent relief, however, must report other applications to ERAP in order to prevent duplicate rent payments from being issued.
The state and local programs also differ in their conditions once payments are received by landlords. Property owners who accept ERAP funds do so on the condition that they must not evict tenants. In Binghamton, landlords who get money from the city can still evict tenants even if they receive rental assistance payments, according to McEwen.
Case managers assigned to tenants who have additional rent due can help them come up with a plan with their landlord to avoid eviction, but McEwen said the plans are verbal agreements rather than formal written ones.
Tenants interested in applying can call 211 to begin the application process.