NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York tenants on the verge of eviction say the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program is failing them.
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to expedite applications and payments, but landlords and renters told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner on Wednesday nothing has changed.
At an event showcasing new apartments that are now home to formerly homeless families on West 127th Street, some acknowledged the city may soon need even more resources to help families facing eviction when the state’s moratorium expires Aug. 31.
“I also talked to some of the providers who provide homeless housing and they say in September they’re going to have an influx, which is frightening. That is so frightening,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said.
The state’s nearly $3 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program has been in place for months, yet has only doled out less than 1% of funds.
It would help cover up to 12 months of back rent and three months of future rent for those struggling financially due to the pandemic.
Last week, the governor promised to make the application process easier and add staff to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which manages the program.
For website glitches, Illinois-based Guidehouse Inc., which has a $115 million contract to run the fund, was supposed to get extra support.
The governor said last week that nearly 5,000 pending cases would be reviewed and cleared by Wednesday, but nonprofits told Rozner there has been no movement.
The state said they were all processed and most were sent for payment, but still, Legal Aid said only one or two applicants have been approved out of hundreds it has helped since June. And out of the roughly 300 applicants the Borough Park Jewish Community Council has assisted, “Nobody, as far as I know, has ever called us back, that they were approved for this program,” director Sender Schwartz said.
The complicated application process prompted a teacher to seek his help Wednesday. She said her pay got docked and her husband lost his job as a barber. The family, which has four kids, is $15,000 behind on rent.
She asked that CBS2 hide her identity.
“This is always at the back of my mind, like, what are we gonna do? Where are we gonna live?” she said.
The state relaxed some requirements for landlords who also have to apply, but there have still been no results.
“We have, um, hundreds of members who have applications pending since the first week of June,” said Olga Someras, general counsel of the Rent Stabilization Association.
The city’s Department of Homeless Services commissioner, Steven Banks, said the agency is ready to represent people brought to housing court.
“Apply for the state-run benefits and that can be a defense in the event that your landlord takes you to court,” Banks said.
The CDC extended the eviction moratorium to October, which may cover tenants in New York once the state’s moratorium expires.
The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance released the following statement:
“As directed by the Governor, OTDA’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program processed all 4,828 pending reviewed and verified cases within the timeframe designated last week. While most of these cases will ultimately result in payment, others will have funding set aside in case the associated landlord has not yet opted to participate in the program and they will be protected from eviction in the meantime. As a result of the processing of these applications, there has been a dramatic uptick in payments since last week and we anticipate this trend will continue as an increasing number of cases are verified and approved.”