Another pittance: NY gets $119M for rent relief

Federal allocation is 7% of what state requested

New York’s rent relief fund is no longer a dry pot. But a fresh allotment of federal dollars won’t cover the growing need of renters and landlords.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Tuesday it would allocate $119 million for the state’s emergency rent relief program, Crain’s reported. That’s just 7 percent of the $1.6 billion Gov. Kathy Hochul requested from the federal government in January.

Landlord groups had estimated that the state needed at least $2 billion to cover the 126,000 pending applications in the portal as of January, plus the projected 175,000 tenants who owe rent but haven’t applied.

Separate estimates suggest the situation is even more dire. The Partnership for the Homeless said at a City Council hearing last last month that 400,000 households in the city alone need aid.

“Every dollar is meaningful; however, this falls woefully short of meeting the financial struggles of the nation’s largest population of income-insecure renters,” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, of the federal allocation announced Tuesday.

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The program has gained about 65,000 new applications since it reopened in January on the order of a state judge. The uptick comes as housing court judges have advised tenants during court appearances to apply for ERAP to gain the eviction protection a pending application affords.

The state budget, which is being negotiated and is due by April 1, will likely include more money for the program. But proposals that came out of weekend talks suggest state funding may fall short.

Hochul’s budget proposal included $2 billion that state budget director Robert Mujica said could go toward ERAP. The state Legislature countered that suggestion with smaller allotments. Assembly Democrats proposed $1.3 billion for the program and Senate Democrats suggested $1 billion, if adequate federal aid did not come through.

A spokesperson for the Treasury said there will be additional rounds of ERAP reallocations, meaning more federal funding could reach New York. As of January, the Treasury reported that $21 billion in funds has yet to be earmarked.
The Treasury’s money is split into two tranches. The first has gone through two rounds of reallocation and the spokesperson said the Treasury will soon release the process for requesting money in the third round.

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Dispersing untapped funds from the second tranche can begin March 31, the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office said Hochul, “will continue pushing to secure every available dollar from the U.S. Treasury to provide relief to the New Yorkers who need it most.”
The Legal Aid Society, in response to the most recent allotment, which “falls drastically short of the statewide demand,” called on Albany to include at least $1 billion in the state budget for ERAP.

In theory, anything shy of $1.9 billion would leave some renters and owners short.

Delivery and distribution of funding could also be problematic. The Treasury did not comment on when the newly-allocated money would reach New York, but said the agency’s efforts have “helped speed up the pace at which these funds are reaching renters in need.” The office of the governor did not comment respond on when the $119 million would hit the portal.

It’s unclear whether a separate federal allotment approved for New York in January has been made available to applicants. A March 1 report by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the state agency running ERAP, shows $2 billion had been set aside or paid out to applicants. That is less than the $2.4 billion the federal government sent New York last year.

OTDA has been slow to disperse funds in the past. Landlords say the portal, plagued by glitches early on, is still running inefficiently. They say the site does not alert them if an application is stalled because of missing documentation, for example. To keep abreast of their status, some landlords spend hours each day refreshing the website or calling the state agency.

“In 2022, we should expect a lot more from technology and government than that,” said Ann Korchak, spokesperson for the Small Property Owners of New York.

This article has been updated to include comments from The Legal Aid Society, the governor’s office and the U.S. Treasury Department.