After a public lashing by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer over New York’s failure to disperse rent relief, Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a list of fresh goals Monday to distribute $2.7 billion before the eviction ban expires Aug. 31.
Schumer took to the podium Sunday to chastise the state for releasing a pittance in the two months that the emergency rental assistance program has been live.
“Thousands and thousands of New York tenants could be deprived of critical rent relief checks if the state doesn’t move more quickly on getting this money out,” said Schumer.
“Today, I am formally asking ODTA to move heaven and earth to fix the mess, pick up the pace and get this federal money out the door before it’s too late for tenants and landlords,” the senator added, referring to the state agency that doles out aid to the needy.
Monday morning, Cuomo vowed to clear the pending 4,828 cases that had been approved for payment by Aug. 3, determine the number of viable applications out of the 150,000 submitted by Aug. 7, and pay out all accepted applications by Aug. 31.
The state has only distributed $117,000, the New York Times reported, to 10 households as a test of the distribution system, said Legal Aid Society attorney Ellen Davidson.
“They don’t see that as the first set of approvals going out,” she said, referring to the state agency in charge of the program, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
Cuomo also committed to boosting staffing numbers and relaxing documentation requirements for landlords and tenants to streamline the process. The governor has had a frosty relationship with Schumer over the years, but has wisely kept his distance from the powerful and popular senator.
Tenants and landlords alike have faced glitches when uploading documents to the portal. Property owners say forms have failed to attach; tenants say the portal will crash mid-upload. Because the system does not include save and continue buttons, the tenant must start from scratch each time, said Davidson.
As a result, Davidson said the 150,000 applications figure Cuomo cited likely includes duplicates.
“We have a lot of clients who may have a couple of application numbers out there,” she said. “As soon as they start to apply they’re unable to complete it for one reason or another and have to start over,” she said.