New emergency to fix NY’s COVID-19 rent relief program – NBC New York – .

New emergency to fix NY’s COVID-19 rent relief program – NBC New York – .

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s pledge to put more COVID-19 rent assistance money into the hands of struggling tenants “without more excuses or delays” takes on new urgency after Supreme Court The United States has rescinded the temporary federal ban on evictions imposed by the Biden administration.

Thursday’s court ruling means New Yorkers behind on rent due to financial hardship from the pandemic will have fewer protections when the state’s eviction ban expires on August 31.

“New Yorkers must complete and submit their nominations immediately,” Hochul said in a statement Friday. ” It’s urgent. “

One key to staying in their homes will be the New York Rental Assistance Program, which got off to a slow start. It is supposed to distribute more than $ 2.4 billion to provide up to 12 months of past due rent directly to landlords on behalf of qualifying low and moderate income tenants.

But on Monday, it had only distributed $ 200 million to 15,500 households. Another $ 600 million in aid has been approved based on tenant requests, but has yet to be distributed due to difficulties in identifying and contacting landlords.

On her first day in office on Tuesday, following the resignation of former Governor Andrew Cuomo, Hochul said she wanted the money to come out faster. She said she would hire more staff and form a team to identify and remove the obstacles that have blocked the release of funds. Hochul also said she would focus on getting more New Yorkers to apply: the state has so far received around 170,000 applications for a program that is expected to help up to 200,000 households.

People seeking help through the program may still be protected from eviction for up to a year, even after the state’s moratorium expired on Tuesday.

In the meantime, tenant advocacy groups are pushing lawmakers to extend the moratorium. A bill would extend the moratorium until October. Some advocates say it should last until June.

“If we leave thousands of evicted homes while the state works to improve the roll-out of its program, this additional investment will be far too small, and will come far too late, to avoid a massive increase in poverty and poverty. misery in New York, ”said Jason Cone, director of policy for the Robin Hood Foundation against poverty.

If extended, the moratorium may also need to be reworked after another recent Supreme Court ruling overturned a state policy allowing tenants to stay eviction proceedings simply by signing a form declaring that they were having financial or health difficulties due to COVID-19. The court said landlords have the right to a hearing where they can challenge the veracity of the tenant’s claim.

Senate Housing Committee Chairman Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat from New York, said he was optimistic the legislature would pass an extension and rework the moratorium to comply with the ruling.

Homeowners opposed to an extension say fears of a flood of evictions are overblown due to likely bottlenecks in housing courts.

In May, the Cuomo administration awarded a $ 115 million contract to Virginia-based consulting firm Guidehouse to roll out the rent relief program.

The contract defines performance standards that the company must meet or face a penalty: its application portal, website software, and servers must be up and running more than 99% of the time each month, for example.

But in the weeks after state aid applications began processing on June 1, dozens of tenants and their lawyers told The Associated Press in interviews that the online application process for the state was plagued by issues that erased pending requests and prevented tenants from uploading documents.

New York resident Helen Morley is still among those still awaiting a response to a request she submitted in mid-June and is asking for $ 9,100 to cover five months’ rent.

She called the application portal “horrible and horrible”, saying she could not check the status of her application for two months because she had been assigned the wrong application number and employees at the hotline were unhelpful for weeks. Her owner has been understanding so far, but she is “scared”.

“Incompetence, I just don’t understand it,” she said.

Guidehouse returned a request for comment to the state.

The Temporary Help and Disability Office, which oversees the rental assistance program, did not penalize the company. OTDA spokesman Justin Mason said the office “continually assesses Guidehouse’s performance.”

State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat on the Assembly’s housing committee, said she believed the company had failed to meet performance metrics. She also blamed the Cuomo administration, saying she waited too late to hire additional workers to help with the flood of applications.

At least 1.1 million New York City renting households have at least one family member who has been economically affected by the pandemic, according to state estimates.


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