Tenants are getting an extra week to apply for pandemic rent relief.
Homes and Community Renewal, the state agency that administers the rent-relief program, announced it would accept applications until Aug. 6. Initially, the agency planned on a two-week window beginning July 16. The response on that first day was so great that it briefly crashed the website to apply.
Instructions for the program are available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian-Creole, Korean and Bengali, according to the agency. The awarding of aid will be prioritized based on applicants’ level of desperation, not on a first-come, first-served basis.
“By keeping the online portal open for another week, we can make sure everyone who needs to apply for assistance has the opportunity to do so,” said RuthAnne Visnauskas, the agency’s commissioner. “This program is intended to prioritize households across the state with the greatest economic and social need, accounting for income, rent burden, percent of income lost and risk of homelessness.”
The program, put in place after the state legislature passed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill this summer, taps into $100 million of federal funds included in the CARES Act to cover an increase in rent burden for some tenants. To qualify, tenants must earn no more than 80 percent of the area median income and be able to document a loss in income.
Some tenant advocates opposed the rent-relief bill because it was not more far-reaching. They pointed out that many undocumented tenants would be unable to document the income loss required for eligibility, and that the aid supplements rent to landlords rather than directly assisting tenants.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie maneuvered the bill around the Assembly’s housing committee to avoid resistance by some of its members or to spare them from a vote that would trigger criticism.
After the rollout of the program, tenant advocates swiftly demanded the application period be lengthened to allow more tenants access to the relief. Despite the program, calls to cancel rent and halt all evictions have not eased. Adding to the economic uncertainty, Congress failed to reach an agreement on federal unemployment benefits, which expired yesterday.
According to the latest survey conducted by the census, a third of renters had no or slight confidence in their ability to pay rent in August.