By: Ilana Siyance
After a slow start and being heavily criticized over the summer for the delay in doling out $2.6 billion received in federal rental assistance, New York officials are finally getting things sorted out.
Over the past six weeks, NYS has changed the application process, and speedily processed 63,000 payments to ailing renters for a total of $804 million, as per the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. The state has also promised another 80,000 renters to make payments totaling $1 billion, the office added. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, previously there was concern that New York would not be able to meet the 65% threshold of payouts in time for the Sept. 30 deadline, and may forfeit the federal funding to other states. By the end of July, NY had only distributed $18.4 million of rent relief. “There was a legitimate concern that we were going to lose money through that process earlier in the summer. Now, I think we will gain,” said Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat from Manhattan who chairs the New York state Senate housing committee.
As of this week, New York has distributed more federal rental assistance than any state except Texas, as per data compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy group. As per the WSJ, now the state, having spent $1.8 billion of the federal aid, is asking for more assistance from the White House, to help tenants who are still behind on rents due to the Covid-19 pandemic, to avoid eviction. On Sept. 21, NY Gov. Kathy Hochul penned a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, saying that roughly 9,000 people a week are still applying for assistance. “Even with these additional state funds, New York’s need far exceeds available funding, and an additional allocation of federal funding will be required to address this crisis,” Ms. Hochul wrote.
While estimates vary, there are still scores of New York households who cannot pay their rent. Jay Martin, executive director of a landlord group called the Community Housing Improvement Program, said it estimates New Yorkers are behind in rent for roughly $2.7 billion to $3.2 billion— after the $2.85 billion in assistance by state and federal governments. “There is a huge universe of renters who have not applied yet and who are still carrying significant rent debt,” Martin said. “That is the concern, because when this program runs dry, there will be literally billions of dollars in rent debt that needs to be accounted for.”