New York State Extends Rent Relief, Broadens Eligibility

The latest application window for COVID rent relief ends Feb. 1.

When the New York State Legislature passed the Emergency Rent Relief Act of 2020 last May, the DHCR was charged with administering the program by disbursing $100 million from the state’s CARES Act money to eligible renters.

The latest application window for COVID rent relief ends Feb. 1.

When the New York State Legislature passed the Emergency Rent Relief Act of 2020 last May, the DHCR was charged with administering the program by disbursing $100 million from the state’s CARES Act money to eligible renters.

The DHCR received nearly 83,000 completed applications online and an additional 11,000 paper applications. At the time, more than 57,000 applicants received denial notices because they weren’t eligible under the law’s criteria. The average payment across all five boroughs came out to about $1,900 to cover partial rent payments over a maximum of four months (April 2020 to July 2020).

Only about $40 million in rent relief was disbursed. With more than half of the federal funding in the COVID-19 rent relief program not disbursed, New York State has opened a new application window in order to hand out the remaining $60 million. The concern among lawmakers was that unspent federal dollars would need to be returned. As a result, for the new filing window, the state has loosened the requirement to receive funds. Governor Cuomo issued an executive order on Dec. 18 expanding the eligibility criteria for the rent relief program so more of the 1.2 million New Yorkers who are at risk of eviction could qualify for the money.

Additionally, New York should see a larger influx of federal funds available for rent relief soon. Congress recently approved a pandemic aid bill on Dec. 27 that includes $25 billion for emergency rental assistance. New York is expected to receive at least $1.3 billion of the recent federal allocation for rent relief. With the experience the DHCR has gained in administering the emergency rent relief program and the investments that owners and residents have made understanding and navigating the process, it’s the hope of everyone involved that this new influx of rental assistance aid will reach vulnerable residents and owners more efficiently.

Broader Eligibility Criteria

During the first application window, applicants for the program had to meet all of the following criteria:

  • Must be a renter and have a primary residence in New York State;
  • Before March 7, 2020, and at the time of application, household income must have been below 80 percent of the area median income, adjusted for household size;
  • Before March 7, 2020, and at the time of application, the household must have been “rent burdened,” which is defined as paying more than 30 percent of gross monthly income towards rent; and
  • Applicants must have lost income during the period of April 1, 2020, to July 31, 2020.

Additionally, the legislation directed the DHCR to include cash benefits, including unemployment benefits, in the calculation of applicants’ income. Tenants receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher for their housing costs or who reside in public housing where their rent can’t be more than 30 percent of their income were also ineligible to receive assistance under the statute.

Now, applicants don’t need to prove they were rent burdened (paying more than 30 percent of their income toward rent) before the pandemic. Applicants in the new filing window only need to show they were rent burdened during the months of April through July, and that their pre-pandemic household income was at or below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) to qualify for partial rent payments.

Eligible Income Limits (80% AMI) for COVID Rent Relief Program


1-Person Household

2-Person Household

3-Person Household

4-Person Household

5-Person Household

6-Person Household

7-Person Household


Five Boroughs of NYC










Establishing Eligibility

To establish a household’s eligibility for the COVID Rent Relief Extension Program, the applicants must provide the following documents:

No Need to Reapply

The new application window will close on Feb. 1. The COVID Rent Relief Program is not first come, first served. The DHCR will prioritize eligible households with “greatest economic and social need.”

Residents who applied for rent relief earlier won’t have to reapply to be reconsidered. The DHCR will re-evaluate all applications that were previously denied according to the new criteria and issue revised determination letters to applicants.

If a resident’s application had already been approved with the first application window, and you’re the landlord who has received or will receive a subsidy award on the resident’s behalf, the resident can’t reapply for additional assistance under the COVID Rent Relief Program. The extended COVID Rent Relief Program expands eligibility criteria, but wouldn’t result in a larger subsidy award than what households received under the prior program.

Subsidy Amounts

The rental subsidy covers only a portion of the monthly rent during the coverage period (April 2020 to July 31, 2020). The rental subsidy will be paid directly to the owner. And the resident is still responsible for the remaining balance of the monthly rent.

The subsidy for eligible applicants is calculated as the difference between the household’s rent burden on March 1, 2020, and the household’s rent burden during the months of April, May, June, and July of 2020. For applicants who weren’t considered rent burdened on March 1, 2020, the subsidy will be calculated to bring them to the 30 percent rent burden threshold.

If a household has paid all or some of their rent during the period of April 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020, and are eligible, they may still receive assistance. If a household is selected to receive COVID Rent Relief, and they have already paid all or a portion of their rent, they may choose to have their owner treat the relief as rent for one or more months for any rent that is owed or becomes due after the coverage period.

How to Apply

Applications are available on the COVID Rent Relief Program portal on HCR’s website at Residents who need help or have questions about their application can contact HCR’s COVID Rent Relief Program Call Center for assistance at 1-833-499-0318 or Call Center representatives are available Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

HCR will also allow to applicants who are unable or uncomfortable applying online to do so over the phone rather than by mail. The Call Center can assist in completing the application. 



COVID Relief Package Includes Emergency Rental Assistance Program;

President Biden Pledges Additional Funding

In late December 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the year-end omnibus legislation, which included appropriations for all federal departments and agencies, tax provisions, and much-needed COVID-19 relief. On Jan. 5, the Treasury Department launched the Emergency Rental Assistance program established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, making available $25 billion to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation groups renters and owners together with funds to keep at-risk renters in their units while also protecting property owners from losing their businesses.

New York State is expected to receive at least about $1.3 billion of the federal allocation for rent relief. And additional funding is likely, as President Biden has pledged it in his American Rescue Plan. Biden has called the $25 billion allocated by Congress an “important down payment on the back rent accrued during the crisis” but “insufficient to meet the scale of the need.” The plan cites the fact that American families already owe $25 billion in back rent, and the threat of widespread evictions will still exist at the end of January.


What Types of Assistance Can Eligible Households Receive?

At least 90 percent of the funds must be used to provide financial assistance, including back and forward rent and utility payments and other housing expenses that were incurred due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic.

Assistance can be provided for 12 months. States and localities can provide an additional three months of assistance “if necessary to ensure housing stability for a household.”

The rental assistance can be paid directly to landlords, or the funds can be distributed directly to the renters. This will allow for relief to both renters who are at risk of losing their homes, as well as the property owners who rely on rental payments for their livelihoods. 

When providing forward rent, assistance can only be given for three months, though households can subsequently reapply for additional assistance. To the extent that households have back rent, states and localities may not make commitments for forward rent payments unless they have also provided assistance to reduce an eligible household’s rental arrears.

Recipients can use up to 10 percent of funds to provide case management and other services related to the pandemic, as defined by the Treasury Secretary, intended to help keep households stably housed.

Who Is Eligible to Receive Rental Assistance?

Households and individuals will need to show that their household income is below 80 percent of the area median income and that at least one person in the household:

  • Has qualified for unemployment benefits or can attest in writing that he or she has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic; and
  • Can show that they are at risk of eviction or housing instability.

Income determination will be based on either the household’s total income in 2020, or the monthly income the household is receiving at the time of application. If income determinations are made based on the applicant’s monthly income, the state or locality must re-determine eligibility after three months.

Funds must be used for households with incomes below 80 percent of area median income (AMI), and states and localities must prioritize households below 50 percent of AMI or those who are unemployed and have been unemployed for 90-days. States and localities can provide additional prioritization of funds.

What Documentation Will Be Required to Demonstrate Need?

The legislation states that applicants must qualify for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

Ultimately, the specific evidence required to show risk of experience homelessness or housing instability will be determined by the eligible grantee the funds are distributed to.

How Will Renters or Landlords Apply for Assistance?

Renters will apply for assistance with entities that state and local grantees select to administer the program. States and localities can make payments directly to landlords or utility companies on behalf of renters. If a landlord refuses to accept the rental assistance, the administering entity can provide assistance directly to the renter, who can then make payments to the landlord or utility provider. Landlords can directly apply for rental assistance under the program but are required to notify the tenant that assistance is being provided on their behalf and obtain the tenant’s consent.

How Will the Program Handle ‘Duplication of Benefits?’

The legislation states that “to the extent feasible,” grantees should ensure that any rental assistance provided to an eligible household is not duplicative of other federally funded rental assistance.

In other words, emergency rental assistance through the COVID Relief Fund (CRF) can’t pay for the same obligation that’s being assisted by other funding—for example, if someone receives one month of rental assistance through the CARES Act, she wouldn’t be eligible to receive additional CRF rental assistance for the same month. However, households that received CARES Act funds for rental assistance previously but are no longer receiving that assistance and still need help should be able to receive CRF funds. Additionally, individuals living in federally assisted housing, such as households supported by the Housing Choice Voucher program, who need rental assistance should be able to receive CRF assistance. The Treasury may offer additional clarity around this issue in future guidance.