New York’s most rent burdened residents can now apply for rental relief for the months of April through July. But they only have two weeks to do so.

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the new $100 million COVID-19 Rental Relief Fund that will allow eligible households to apply for a one-time payment to landlords or housing providers, that does not need to be repaid. The program is designed to reach those in the greatest need who have lost income due to the pandemic and help keep low-income families in their homes, Cuomo said.

“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.

“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.”

The new program, funded through the CARES Act and administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), won’t outright cover rent payments. Instead it will offer a percentage of the monthly rental payment depending on the rental amount, the tenant’s income and how much income they have lost because of the pandemic.

To qualify for the program, applicants must meet all of the criteria:

  • Must be a renter with a primary residence in New York State.
  • Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, household income (including unemployment benefits) must be below 80 percent of the Area Median Income, adjusted for household size. ($72,800 for a family of two in Kings County.)
  • Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, the household must have been “rent burdened,” defined as paying more than 30 percent of monthly income towards rent.
  • Applicants must have lost income during any period between April 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020.

The fund will cover the difference between a tenant’s rent burden at the start of the pandemic and how rent burdened they are now (if they spent 40 percent of their income on rent before the pandemic and now spend 70 percent, the fund would cover the 30 percent difference.)

If a household meets the criteria and has managed to pay all or part of their rent over the four months, that household can use the fund as prepayment for future rent.

Although a number of New York’s elected leaders say the fund is a step in the right direction, many acknowledge it is not enough to meet the need tenants are facing. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said while the effort would offer some relief, the government needed to step up and provide more support.

“Despite the progress we have made in fighting COVID-19, millions of New Yorkers are struggling because of this virus and the economic crisis,” she said.

“We are going to keep advancing meaningful legislation to help New Yorkers, and we need the federal government to work with us and provide the resources our state needs.”

Senator Brian Kavanagh said leaders had not done nearly enough for the many New Yorkers who have been struggling to pay rent and stay in their homes. “While we need a lot more funding to cover a much wider range of people, including those currently homeless and those whose immigration status makes it difficult to access other forms of assistance, this program is an important first step toward supporting New Yorkers in need of relief.”

The program is open to households that rent apartments, single-family homes, manufactured homes and manufactured home lots. HCR said it would prioritize families with the greatest economic and social need, based on income, rent burden, percent of income lost and risk of homelessness.

Households with at least one U.S. citizen or member with eligible immigration status are qualified to receive the subsidy. However, tenants currently receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher for housing costs or who reside in public housing are not eligible.

Applications open today, July 16, and will remain open for two weeks. You can apply here.


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