Hochul Requests Nearly $1B Federal Infusion for Rent Relief Program

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Gov. Kathy Hochul requested an additional $996 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury for the state’s rent relief program on Friday, as the program’s set to run out of cash by Sunday after distributing nearly all of its $2.4 billion pool.

The extra funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) would aid renters and landlords still struggling with the financial fallout from the pandemic, something Hochul believes Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen should take notice of as there are additional applications still awaiting fulfillment, according to the administration.

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“From the start of my administration, I pledged to get federal rental relief money to New Yorkers still recovering from the pandemic,” Hochul said in a statement. “While New York accelerated getting rent relief out the door and moved from the back of the pack to the front amongst other states, there are still many individuals in need of assistance.” 

ERAP started under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on June 1 to help landlords and renters struggling to pay bills during the pandemic and has since received more than 280,000 applications, according to the state. The distributions of aid moved at a glacial pace — with the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) only doling out $100 million by August — but Hochul accelerated the pace after taking office.

The Hochul administration said there have been 165,000 applications to the program and $2.1 billion has been paid out or committed already. This includes over 81,000 direct payments to landlords through the OTDA.

Hochul warned that the funding was nearly exhausted last month.

Rep. Kathleen Rice and 17 other members of the New York Congressional delegation reinforced Hochul’s request by stressing the number of people who rent, rather than own, property in New York compared to other states.

“New York State has more renters than any other state in the country, and many households have been struggling to pay rent since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic,” Rice wrote in a letter to Yellen. “ERAP has proven to be an invaluable tool in providing much-needed assistance to eligible New Yorkers who are unable to pay their rent.”

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer also backed the letter with their signatures.

“New York tenants suffer from a double whammy: they were hit hardest by COVID and they pay some of the highest rents,” Schumer said in a statement. “But the scale of New York’s tenant needs means that without additional rental assistance funds reallocated by the Treasury Department, New York will almost certainly see additional evictions that could be prevented.”

The news comes after an announcement in early October in which Hochul set aside $125 million specifically for property owners ineligible for ERAP through the newly fashioned Landlord Rental Assistance Program

This would be reserved for landlords with units leased at, or below, 150 percent of fair-market rate and prioritize those with 20 or fewer apartments who applied within the first 45 days of the program start.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.