Finally: As of June 1, New Yorkers will be able to apply for the state’s latest round of pandemic rent relief.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement on Tuesday, a week before applications go live. The launch date just misses the May deadline initially proposed by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the agency tasked with allocating funds.
The state legislature approved the $2.7 billion program in the budget that passed in early April. But as of two weeks ago, OTDA had yet to update their website with program information. At the time, attorneys at the Legal Aid Society said they feared the radio silence would make it difficult for those in need to learn about the program.
“You can’t do any outreach when there’s nothing to tell people,” said Ellen Davidson, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society.
The state is hoping to allay that concern with a marketing campaign to spread the word about the program, as well as recovery initiatives available to small businesses. The OTDA will also partner with community organizations to provide application assistance in multiple languages.
When it opens, the program will pay up to 12 months of arrears and 3 months of prospective rent payments for eligible applicants. A bill that’s currently in committee in the state Senate would expand those allotments to 18 months of rent payments, and would ensure that New York’s program aligns with recently updated federal guidelines.
Eligible households can also receive up to 12 months of utility arrears.
The state expects the program to serve between 170,000 and 200,000 households. However, a September analysis of rent shortfalls prepared for the National Council of State Housing Agencies estimated New York could see anywhere from 800,000-to-1.23 million households unable to make rent. The data projected a rental debt load between $2.5 and $3.4 billion by 2021.
New York has lagged behind neighboring states in getting its program up and running. New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania all opened applications in March, just weeks after the federal funds allocated for rent relief became available.