1,300 households call for reopening of rent relief portal as New York’s eviction freeze comes to an end

New Yorkers who owe back rent can once again apply for the Emergency Rent Assistance Program (ERAP) after a judge orders the state to reopen applications, citing what could be a second substantial funding round in March. But the federal government has yet to approve a new round for the depleted fund, and the eviction protections end Saturday.

Sadef Kully

The scene of a 2020 protest by Housing Justice for All.

Governor Kathy Hochul is once again urging the federal government to replenish New York’s rent relief fund after more than 1,300 additional households applied for the state’s reactivated assistance program.

New York’s broad pandemic eviction protections will expire on Saturday, Jan. 15, but Hochul said she won’t seek to extend a ban on most evictions that began in March 2020. While local tenant groups pushed for a suspension of winter evictions, state lawmakers backed down calls for another extension.

Instead, leaders pointed to other ways to curb evictions in New York, including state rent relief and municipal grants, known as one-time deals, to cover arrears of rent and the right to a lawyer for low-income tenants who are at risk. to lose their home.

In a letter Thursday, Hochul joined the governors of New Jersey, California and Illinois in asking US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to streamline the allocation of a second round of funding for the program. Emergency Rent Assistance (ERAP) to direct more money to landlords on behalf of tenants who have fallen behind on rent and are facing eviction.

New York and other states “now face an immediate need, and unused emergency funds eligible for reallocation should be deployed in an accelerated manner to keep families stabilized and housed as we continue to deal with the current outbreak. of COVID-19,” wrote Hochul and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, California Governor Gavin Newsome and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams also called on the federal government to replenish the housing relief fund during a news conference outside Manhattan Housing Court on Thursday.

“New York City has the highest rents in the country,” Adams said. “The federal government must help the workers of this state.”

The federal government provided an additional $27 million in ERAP funding to New York in December 2020, but that amount was less than 3% of Hochul’s request for about $1 billion. The Treasury Department will soon reallocate some of the unused money that was part of its first ERAP allocation, known as ERA1, to states that need additional rent assistance, but it’s unclear how much. New York will receive. The Treasury will determine a second round of payments, known as ERA2, by the end of March.

Since June 2021, the New York Rent Relief Fund has disbursed money to landlords on behalf of more than 100,000 households who owed arrears due to the pandemic and related economic crisis. This money allowed landlords to recover lost income, while avoiding tens of thousands of potential evictions.

But Hochul and the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) decided to shut down the state’s ERAP portal in November after demand far exceeded available cash. The program began in June with a reserve of about $2.4 billion and has since received nearly 300,000 applications, leaving the state unable to pay about 85,000 applicants.

However, New Yorkers who owe unpaid rent can again apply for ERAP financing. The OTDA reactivated the application process at 10 p.m. Tuesday night after a state judge earlier this month ordered them to resume the process, citing what could be a substantial second round of funding in March.

An ERAP application also allows tenants to delay or avoid an eviction because state law prohibits a judge from ordering an ERAP applicant to vacate their home until their eligibility is determined. By accepting payment, landlords agree not to evict a tenant for at least one year.

To qualify for PARE funding, tenants must earn less than 120% of the regional median income (AMI) — $128,880 for a family of three in New York City — and owe arrears dating no earlier than March 13, 2020.

The vast majority of ERAP applicants are among the lowest-income New York residents. Statewide, about 69% said they earned less than 30% of the AMI, or $32,200 for a family of three, according to OTDA reports. Another 20% earn between 30 and 50% of the AMI, or no more than $53,700 for a family of three in town.

Many more New Yorkers are at risk of deportation, but have not asked for help.

A recent survey by the Community Service Society of New York (a funder of City Limits) found that one in four low-income tenants are behind on their rent, with black and Latino women most at risk. risk of deportation. At the same time, rents went up for more than 40% of low-income respondents, CSSNY found.

Echoing the program’s glitchy initial launch last year, new applicants said they again encountered technical errors while attempting to complete the process within hours of its relaunch this week. Still, more than 1,300 managed to send in their submissions anyway, the OTDA said.

Legal Aid Society housing attorney Ellen Davidson said that figure, despite confusion and some issues, illustrates the urgent need for rental assistance across the state. “Unfortunately, tenants heard about the program after it closed and applied as soon as it reopened,” Davidson said.

She said Legal Aid and other legal service providers have advised tenants at risk of eviction to respond to court documents and connect with a lawyer to navigate a complex process, even if a tenant has already received a warrant from a Marshal.

“All hope is not lost for these tenants,” Davidson said. “They need to contact the courts, get a lawyer and find a way to resolve the matter.”

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