Despite being one of the final states to get rent relief up and running, New York now ranks first in the nation in the total dollar amount of payments approved. All it took was a verbal lashing from Sen. Chuck Schumer, multiple proddings from state lawmakers and a scathing report by the Comptroller — oh, and a new governor.
The state has now approved or distributed $1.2 billion in federal rental assistance funds, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in a release Tuesday, a little less than half of the $2.7 billion available.
Sticker price aside, the threshold isn’t much of a milestone. The state actually hit $1.2 billion two weeks ago, according to a report by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. And of that figure, only $399 million has reached landlords, up from $300 million as of Aug. 31.
Moreover, the benchmark represents a red flag for the broader rent relief rollout nationwide. Many states have had access to federal relief funds since February. Yet, as of Monday, only $7.75 billion of the first $25 billion tranche of funding — or about 16 percent of the total $46.5 billion pot — has been approved or distributed, according to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
State and local officials, including New York’s OTDA Commissioner Michael Hein, have attributed delays to the red tape baked into the application process. The program requires landlord and tenant cooperation to get money out the door — a rule that has stymied disbursement. Some tenants, shielded by state and federal eviction bans, have declined to apply, and landlords loath to hand over their tax ID numbers haven’t filled out their side of the applications.
To expedite the rollout, the U.S. Treasury Department has issued multiple tweaks to program guidelines. On Aug. 25, the department allowed tenants to self-attest eligibility for the funds and allowed states to advance payments to landlords based on estimated arrears.
But federal officials say local governments have failed to take advantage of the relaxed rules, the New York Times reported, perpetuating delays.
Data from the NLIHC shows that about half the country’s programs allow at least one form of self-attestation. New York’s program says self-attestation is “permitted in certain circumstances where no documentation is available such as a certain self-employment,” a partial invocation of the Treasury’s tweak.
Tuesday, the Treasury tried a new approach to get money out the door — competition. In a release, the department debuted an incentive program that promised to distribute additional funds to state and local governments that had excelled in getting relief to landlords and tenants.
The announcement spotlighted a handful of cities that have been or are expected to be pre-approved for that money, including Philadelphia, New Orleans and Houston.
No New York municipalities made the list.