Op-Ed | Help for Renters

Closeup of red, white for rent sign attached, hanging on wooden apartment, house, home, building door with glass windows
Photo via Getty Images
Photo via Getty Images

Americans all across the country are dealing with the economic crises wrought by coronavirus pandemic – with too many families struggling to keep a roof over their heads. 

As a city that is home to millions of renters, New Yorkers know this pain far too well.

That is why my colleagues and I fought to include $46 billion dollars in rental assistance in the December 2020 Coronavirus relief package and the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Approximately $2.3 billion of this total is designated for New York State. 

Now that Congress has appropriated these funds, New York State is responsible for getting these funds to New Yorkers through the NY State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which opened on June 1, 2021.

As of Aug. 16, New York State has approved 8,200 applications, disbursed $114 million in rental assistance and marked another $600 million to be disbursed. However, the backlog – and therefore people waiting for help – is overwhelming. In the first 30 days alone, the State received 120,000 applications.

I am pleased that the State has committed to ending the backlog by August 31, which is the expiration date for the State Eviction Moratorium. However, as I wrote on July 21 when I urged the State to process these applications as quickly as possible, if necessary, we may need to extend the state’s eviction moratorium. 

Given the spread of the delta variant and rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the city, it would be dangerous and shortsighted to resume evictions without providing the rental assistance that New Yorkers need and deserve. We need people to have a safe place to sleep, eat, and social distance. Kicking people out of their homes is antithetical to that. 

If you need rental assistance, please apply today online (https://nysrenthelp.otda.ny.gov/). Both the rental and owner/landlord need to fill out parts of the application and this can take time. There are also community-based organizations available to help you through this process, you can find a list of them on the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s website (https://otda.ny.gov/programs/emergency-rental-assistance/help-applying/).

While both the landlord and the renter must complete certain parts of the application and either a renter or an owner/landlord can start an application, only the tenant can sign and submit the application. If your landlord starts the application, you will receive an email or text to complete the required tenant part.

Filling for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) may also help you if your landlord does not act in good faith. If it’s determined that a renter is eligible for this assistance and the landlord cannot be contacted to provide the necessary information, the State will hold these funds for 180 days. Renters will receive written notification of the available rental assistance and should share this with the landlord. If needed, this documentation can be provided to a court as a defense in any proceeding seeking a monetary judgement or eviction brought by a landlord for the non-payment of rent during the time period which was covered by the available rental assistance that they did not collect.

Importantly, individuals’ immigration status is not a factor in qualifying for this program.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented us with unprecedented wide-spread economic hardship as we contend with this public health emergency. To help our city, state, and country survive this crisis, Congress has taken action to provide monetary aid – I encourage everyone who qualifies to make use of it.