Update 7/31/20: The deadline to apply for the rent relief program has been extended by one week to Thursday, August 6.
A new rent relief program launched Tuesday that provides subsidies to eligible low-income New Yorkers financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic. First signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month, the assistance program helps low-income households experiencing increased rent burden due to a loss of income because of COVID-19 by sending a one-time subsidy directly to landlords. The payment covers the difference between a household’s rent burden on March 1 and the increase in rent burden for up to four months. Applicants must meet several eligibility requirements to qualify for the program.
“Since day one we made it clear that no New Yorkers should be thrown on the streets because of hardships caused by this pandemic,” Cuomo said in a press release. “It’s critically important that people are able to stay safely in their homes as we progress through our data-driven, phased reopening, and the COVID Rent Relief Program reinforces that commitment with direct assistance to those in the greatest need.”
To qualify, renters must live primarily in New York, earn below 80 percent of the area median income as a household, be “rent-burdened” (which the state defines as paying more than 30 percent of gross monthly income on rent), and provide proof of loss of income any time between April 1 and July 31.
New York State Homes and Community Renewal will consider renters with the greatest need, when looking at income, rent burden, percent of income lost, and risk of homelessness.
Households can apply for up to four months in rental assistance for months of April through July. The subsidy does not have to go strictly to back rent but can be applied to future rent or security deposit instead. Tenants who receive Section 8 vouchers or who live in public housing can not apply for the program.
The program will accept applications for two weeks, starting Thursday, July 16. To apply, you will need proof of identity like a government-issued ID card, the lease or similar contract with the rent amount listed, and proof of household’s gross income prior to March 1, 2020, and current income.
According to the program’s fine print, landlords must complete required certification and agree to the terms of assistance before the state provides the rent relief payment to them, “so notifying your landlord of your application submission in a timely manner is critical to the process,” according to the HCR.
The $100 million program is part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in March.
Earlier this month, Cuomo signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which protects New Yorkers from eviction for any unpaid rent accrued during the crisis, between March 7 and the to-be-determined date when their region fully reopens. Renters still must prove they experienced financial hardship during COVID-19.
The Tenant Safe Harbor Act and the rent relief program strengthens the current eviction moratorium, now extended until August 20, by preventing a mass eviction of tenants immediately following the moratorium. Other rent relief measures issued by the state include allowing renters to use their pre-paid security deposit for rent and banning fees for late payments.
Advocates and some lawmakers have pushed for the state to totally cancel rent. Last week, Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niu and State Sen. Julia Salazar introduced the “Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020,” which would cancel residential rent accrued between March 7 and the end of the current state of emergency, plus 90 days. The bill also would reimburse landlords for canceled payments, according to the bill.
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