New York offering rent relief due to COVID-19

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See if you’re eligible and how to apply

ALBANY — New Yorkers who are income eligible and struggling to pay their rent due to COVID-19 have a new state-administered program to help.

The state has established an emergency rental assistance program that will aid keep low-income renters in New York.

The program will provide direct aid for tenants who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is funded through the federal CARES Act and administered by state Department of Homes and Community Renewal.

Applications will start being accepted Thursday.

“Since day one we made it clear that no New Yorkers should be thrown on the streets because of hardships caused by this pandemic,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

“It’s critically important that people are able to stay safely in their homes as we progress through our data-driven, phased reopening.”

Am I eligible?

Under the new program, eligible households can get a one-time rental subsidy paid directly to landlords and housing providers.

Tenants are not required to repay the money.

The application period will be open for two weeks, and residents can apply any time during the stretch.

Here are the requirements:

Must be a renter with a primary residence in New York.

Before March 1, and at the time of applying, household income (including unemployment benefits) must be below 80% of the area median income based on household size. Here’s where you can find that data.

Before March 1, the household must have been “rent burdened,” which is defined as paying more than 30% of gross monthly income towards rent.

Applicants must have lost income during any period between April 1 and July 31.

So, for example, if your monthly household income is $2,000, 30% of that would be $600, but you pay $700 a month in rent. That would make your household income eligible for assistance.

To apply, visit: hcr.ny.gov/RRP

How much help can I get?

The state said it will prioritize the release of the rent help to households with greatest economic and social need, “accounting for income, rent burden, percent of income lost and risk of homelessness.”

The money doesn’t cover the full rent.

It covers the difference between the household’s “rent burden” on March 1 and the increase in rent burden due to the impact from coronavirus for the months they are applying.

You can apply for four months of relief. Again, the money is paid directly to the resident’s landlord and is expected to be paid out in late summer, the state said.

So here’s an example of what is eligible, according to the state:

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, your monthly household income was $2,000. Your monthly rent is $700, that means your rent burden was 35%.

But now, due to a reduction in hours, your monthly income has decreased to $1,400 and your rent remains the same. That means you are paying 50% of your monthly income toward rent.

So you would be eligible for a subsidy that covers the 15% increase in your rent burden, or $210. The subsidy would get you back to your pre-March 1 rent burden of 35%.

What if I already paid the rent?

The program is open to households that rent apartments, single-family homes, manufactured homes and manufactured home lots.

Tenants receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher for housing costs or who reside in public housing are not eligible for the assistance.

If you already paid all or some of their rent between April 1 and July 31, you can still get the assistance.

There are several options:

Renters can may choose to have their landlord treat the relief as pre-payment of rent for one or more months beginning Aug. 1.

Household may choose to have the landlord apply the payment to a security deposit if it was used to pay rent.

Residents will be asked to specify how they want the assistance to be used when they submit their application.

Landlords and other housing providers are required by state law to accept the COVID Rent Relief Program.

Renters and landlords will receive notification by the state when the payment is made.

Other questions answered

What if I have roommates? Yes, you can apply, but only for the portion of rent for which you are personally responsible. If a resident and their roommate are both applying for assistance, they must apply together as a household.

Do I have to tell my landlord that I applied? The state said it encourages you to do so to to prevent misunderstandings. Both the tenant and their landlord will receive a notice when the funds are disbursed.

Can a landlord apply the aid on behalf of their tenants? No. Only the eligible tenant can apply on their household’s behalf.

What other rent protections measures are there in New York?

Cuomo during the pandemic instituted several executive orders to protect tenants from being evicted if they couldn’t pay the rent because of a loss of work or a cut in pay.

The state currently has a moratorium on COVID-related residential or commercial evictions and a ban on late payments or fees for missed rent payments.

The state also allows renters facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 to use their security deposit as payment, letting them repay their security deposit back over time.

Tenant advocates and some Democratic state lawmakers want New York to do more, such as canceling rent debt and even allowing those in financial peril to skip rent payments.

“Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders are failing to protect tens of thousands of New Yorkers facing evictions during this pandemic,” Ivette Alfonso, president of Citizen Action of New York, said in a statement.

“We’re calling on them to meet our demands to house the homeless, cancel rent and pass a full eviction moratorium.”

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