ERAP Update: COVID Rent Relief Funds Depleted, Governor Requests More Federal Aid
Nearly 280,000 households have submitted ERAP applications, and the number of payments issued to owners is 81,209 since the application portal opened on June 1, according to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the agency in charge of distributing $2.7 billion through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). The majority of the money came from federal pandemic relief packages, and New York State provided some of the funding.
Unfortunately, the rental assistance funds have nearly run dry, and funds allocated for New York City are fully depleted. The five counties that make up New York City were not among those being encouraged to apply for remaining funding.
On its website, OTDA recently posted a warning informing would-be applicants that ERAP funding was all but gone. OTDA’s site says applications are being accepted for only two categories and that funding isn’t guaranteed.
For the first category, tenants in certain counties where funding hasn’t dried up can still apply, but the identified areas are expected to be removed as funds are exhausted. These counties include Dutchess; Nassau (not including the towns of Hempstead or Oyster Bay); Niagara; Oneida; Saratoga; Suffolk (not including the towns of Brookhaven or Islip); and Westchester (not including the city of Yonkers). In addition, households in any part of the state with income over 80 percent and up to 120 percent of area median income can still apply for state-funded emergency rental assistance.
OTDA says owners may continue to complete owner accounts and previously submitted tenant applicants may continue to upload required documentation.
Landlord Rental Assistance Program
The OTDA is still accepting applications for the Landlord Rental Assistance Program (LRAP). Under the program, $125 million in state funding is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Preference is being given to owners of buildings with 20 or fewer units who leased the buildings at or below 150 percent of the fair market rent for their location.
The program gives eligible recipients payments of up to a year’s worth of past-due rent. The program was created from legislation enacted on Sept. 2 that included an extension of the eviction and foreclosure moratorium through Jan. 15, 2022.
Although OTDA will continue to accept LRAP applications through Nov. 20, 2021, as established by law, OTDA says that all funds for LRAP are fully committed, and all applications submitted may not be funded.
Response to Dwindling Funds
On Nov. 12, Governor Hochul announced that the state had applied for a $996 million reallotment from the Treasury Department to cover existing applications in the system and maintain the program for the next four months. The funding crunch comes at a precarious time for owners and tenants as eviction protections are set to expire in just over two months. New York State has an eviction moratorium preventing owners from evicting tenants who submit a hardship declaration until Jan. 15, 2022.
New York’s Congressional delegation has sent a joint letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen supporting the state’s application and urging the agency to release the money requested. It’s unclear, however, when the U.S. Treasury will respond to the letter. The Treasury Department posted a form for states to apply for additional relief on its website on Oct. 25.
As it begins to recapture excess funds that will be available for reallocation under the first Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA1), the letter urges the Treasury Department, to “prioritize New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s request for an allocation of additional funds to help the many New Yorkers still in need of rental assistance.”
The letter notes that “New York State has more renters than any other state in the country, and many households have been struggling to pay rent since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic. As New York continues to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers face significant rental debt and are at risk of housing instability. Having a child in your household is the single greatest predictor of an eviction, and housing instability could pose immense challenges for our youngest constituents for years to come. ERAP has proven to be an invaluable tool in providing much-needed assistance to eligible New Yorkers who are unable to pay their rent.”