By Tony Aiello

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Relief could be on the way for lower-income New Yorkers who owe thousands of dollars in back rent.

A new program funded with federal COVID-19 relief money came on-line on Tuesday.

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Tenants and landlords say it’s about time, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

Month after month, the back rents add up. Yonkers landlord Franco Milio has dozens of tenants who haven’t been able to pay over the course of the pandemic.

“We have a handful of tenants that owe over $20,000, and it’s gotten to the point that if someone owes you $7,000 it’s almost not bad because you have so many more that are way in default, way behind,” Milio said.

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Milio had June 1 marked on his calendar, the day New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program kicked in. It features several billion dollars to help tenants pay off what they owe in rent.

Federal funding for the program arrived at Yonkers City Hall and at the state capitol in Albany back in January. Here it is June, and the program is just now getting up and running.

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“When the federal government deposited the money into all of our accounts, they didn’t particularly supply us with the guidelines at first,” Yonkers Planning Commissioner Lou Albano said.

Albano said there are income guidelines to qualify. For most of the region, a family of four must have household income under $90,000, and have incurred significant costs or hardship due to the pandemic.

“I cannot tell you how many constituents called my office and complained and shared their burden with me, the fact they’re worried about losing their homes,” City Councilmember Shanae Williams said.

The state has released a video detailing the documentation needed to apply. Landlords could be getting what they are owed in five or six weeks.

“It has been long awaited. We’re struggling and we’re very happy and hopefully we’ll see some of the monies,” Milio said.

He’ll be reaching out to tenants who may qualify, urging them to apply.

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Tony Aiello