OTDA's Emergency Rental Assistance Program Site Goes Live

The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) has made a new webpage live with information on the New York State rent relief program intended to prevent thousands of evictions by covering COVID-related arrears.

Unfortunately, it's not clear when the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) will begin accepting applications. The website states that applications will be accepted soon. In a hearing before the City Council's welfare committee, Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks testified that state officials have assured the city that the ERAP program will be up and running by the end of May.

Why it matters: The ERAP is funded with nearly $2.4 billion. It will pay owners up to a year of back rent on behalf of qualifying tenants. The state will also pay up to three future months for some applicants still struggling to earn income and pay their rent.

One level deeper: For owners, there is some hope that the program will be run better than previous rent relief efforts. OTDA running the rent relief program is a big change from the earlier initiative run by the state’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal. OTDA administers benefits and entitlements and is better situated to administer this sort of initiative.

Bottom line: Owners should inform financially struggling eligible tenants to start gathering the necessary documents. Eligible households must earn less than 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) — $95,450 for a family for four in New York City — and demonstrate that they lost their job or their income during the pandemic or were otherwise affected by the COVID-19 financial crisis. The OTDA website provides a list of documents for applicants to submit to prove their identity and the financial impact of the COVID pandemic.            

According to the Frequently Asked Questions section on the OTDA website, in the first 30 days of the program, highest priority will be given to households that earn less than 50 percent of AMI and include a veteran, someone who has been unemployed for at least 90 days, a person experiencing domestic violence, or a survivor of human trafficking. OTDA will also give first priority to low-income New Yorkers who live in a mobile home, a building with fewer than 21 units, or a community “disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

The state will next focus on applicants who make 50 percent of AMI but do not have a household member in those special classes or living situations, followed by applicants at 80 percent or less of AMI. After the first 30 days of the program, OTDA will consider applications on a first-come, first-served basis, the website states.