State Looks to Expedite Renter Aid

121 Highlands households have applied for funds

The state and federal governments are taking steps to speed up the distribution of billions in funding that will cover a year of back rent and overdue utility payments for renters who lost income due to the pandemic and face eviction. 

New York announced on Tuesday (Aug. 24) that it would spend $1 million to promote the state program, which has so far received $1.2 billion in federal funding.

As of Aug. 13, 100 tenants in Beacon had applied for rental assistance and nine for help with overdue utilities. In Garrison, 11 had applied, plus one for utility assistance. There were no applications from Cold Spring. 

Eligible households must have at least one person who qualifies for unemployment or has lost income or faced significant costs or financial hardship due to the pandemic shutdown; can prove they are at risk of homelessness or “housing instability”; and has household income at or below 80 percent of the area median, which ranges from $57,360 for a single person up to $108,080 for an eight-person household in Dutchess County. 

Distributing aid has become more urgent because the state’s blanket moratorium on evictions expires on Aug. 31. A more limited federal moratorium that applied to places with “substantial” or “high” rates of COVID-19 transmission under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines (which as of Wednesday included Dutchess and Putnam counties) was rejected on Friday (Aug. 27) by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said the CDC had exceeded its authority.

“I am very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s appalling and insensitive ruling that eliminates a key line of defense for tenants facing housing insecurity during the ongoing pandemic, and we are exploring all options to further protect New Yorkers from eviction, including with the legislative leaders,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

“It is critical that New Yorkers know that anyone who applies to the rent relief program will automatically be protected from eviction while their application is pending,” she said. “More than $1 billion remains available for relief and resources are available through community organizations to help New Yorkers apply, receive eviction protection, and pay their rent. New Yorkers should complete and submit their applications immediately.

The program requires that tenants and landlords each complete the application before payments can be made. The state said it also will reassign contract workers to help landlords.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury, which is overseeing the program, said states could allow renters to self-attest when answering questions about income and financial hardship, rather than provide documentation. New York had approved or distributed nearly $639 million of its $1.2 billion as of Wednesday, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which is tracking how much each state has paid. 

“I want the money out, and I want it out now,” Hochul said on Tuesday. “No more excuses and delays.” 

In addition to qualifying for 12 months of rent and utility assistance, eligible tenants can receive an additional three months of assistance to prevent a looming eviction. For information, see bit.ly/renter-aid. 

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