New York to stop accepting rental assistance requests in case of pandemic

New York State said on Friday it would stop responding to most requests for pandemic rent relief for struggling tenants as an overwhelmi...


New York State said on Friday it would stop responding to most requests for pandemic rent relief for struggling tenants as an overwhelming number of applicants left the program with almost no money. The huge demand for aid underscores the severe economic suffering inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Since the $ 2.4 billion program began this summer, the state has received nearly 280,000 requests for assistance in paying rents and overdue utility bills.

As of this week, New York has paid $ 1 billion – nearly 85% in cases involving New York City tenants – and an additional $ 1.1 billion has been pledged to be paid, but for which additional documents were required from the owners.

There were approximately 100,000 additional requests pending. State officials have said that without more money from the federal government, 70,000 to 80,000 of these candidates could be left in limbo.

Officials said the application window will close at 10 p.m. Sunday across the state except in a few smaller counties, such as Dutchess and Oneida counties, which have yet to exhaust their funds.

The development was a stark reversal from this summer, when the state had been among the slowest in the country to launch its program and when the application process was fraught with pitfalls.

New York only issued a single payment in August, one of the last states in the country to do so, but is now among the fastest, like several other states. continued to hang out.

The development also reflected the severity of the economic crisis in New York City, which has more tenants than any other state. Even before the pandemic, more than a quarter of households in the state were spending more than half of their income on rent and some utilities.

Congress approved $ 46.5 billion in federal pandemic assistance for rent assistance, a huge infusion of money to help struggling tenants, but it was not enough for the states. more populated, especially California, New Jersey and New York. Texas also said last week that it would not accept new applications after the number of applications exceeded the available rent relief.

The developments in Texas and New York come as the federal government is poised to consider redistributing rent relief from states that do not need or have not used it to states that do. most needed. Some housing groups urged the United States Treasury Department, which distributed the aid, to redirect unused aid from small states.

Governor Kathy Hochul said on Friday she had asked the federal government for additional funding of nearly $ 1 billion for rent relief.

“As New York has ramped up rent relief and moved from the back of the pack to the front among other states, many people still need help,” he said. she declared.

Several members of the New York congressional delegation also sent a letter Friday to the Treasury Department stressing the need for further assistance. They said the state continues to receive about 10,000 new requests per week.

A state moratorium on evictions due to expire early next year has kept thousands at home even as their arrears continue to mount. Many tenants made redundant during the pandemic have relied on the rent relief program to help them reduce their debt, while small landlords rely on the rent to pay their own bills.

Typically, households representing up to 80% of an area’s median income, or about $ 95,400 for a family of four in New York City, are eligible for the program. Tenants must demonstrate that they have experienced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and have fallen behind on their rent or are at risk of becoming homeless.

In most cases, the program will cover up to one year of rent and utilities, as well as three months of future rent. Payments are sent to landlords who, in return for help, usually cannot evict tenants for at least a year.

While the application portal shuts down for most of the state on Sunday night, a handful of counties, including Westchester and Nassau counties, still had money to distribute and could accept applications past the deadline. However, the largest municipalities in these counties, Yonkers and Hempstead, were excluded, the the state said Friday.

Applications were to remain open for two separate state programs, a $ 125 million initiative targeting middle-income tenants, as well as another special $ 125 million program for landlords whose tenants could not or do not. had not requested other rental assistance programs.

Ellen Davidson, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit that helps people with the rent relief program, said “it would be a disaster if we didn’t get more funds. , when you look at how many tenants before Covid were struggling to pay rent, then you add to that the extreme economic crisis that resulted from the state shutdown to save lives. “

Michael Johnson, spokesperson for the Community Housing Improvement Program, a group of New York homeowners, said that based on his organization’s surveys, the number of tenants in New York State who qualify but do not ‘had not yet applied could exceed 100,000.

Some people are unaware of the program’s existence, he said, while others do not have internet access to apply.

“The biggest concern is that there are people who might be able to get the money but no one has ever contacted them,” Mr Johnson said. “It’s the biggest frustration with that.”

Ann Korchak, a member of the Small Property Owners of New York, said closing the application portal would be another setback for owners.

“Small owners cannot continue to carry this burden,” Ms. Korchak said. “The burden this places on small owners is overwhelming. “

The application process has frustrated both landlords and tenants. Both parties must provide documents to the state for payments to be approved, meaning that if either party refuses or cannot be reached, the money will not be issued.

The state had warned for weeks that the program was in danger of running out of money. But the decision to close the app was criticized on Friday.

State Senator Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat who sponsored the bill that created the New York program, said it was a “mistake.” He said data collected from requests for rent relief was one of the few ways to understand how many people affected by the pandemic needed help.

Under state law, the program also prevents the deportation of people with pending requests for help. By not allowing people to apply, Kavanagh said, that layer of protection is being removed, which could take on even greater significance when New York’s deportation moratorium expires on January 15.

“I think it’s a catastrophically bad decision,” he said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: New York to stop accepting rental assistance requests in case of pandemic
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