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Cuomo says he's reopening the application window to give more NYers access to Covid rent relief

By Brick Underground  | December 4, 2020 - 11:00AM 

New Yorkers in line for Covid-19 tests before Thanksgiving. At a press conference yesterday, Cuomo said he is expanding eligibility requirements for Covid rent relief.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’ll expand eligibility requirements for the state’s rental assistance program to help New Yorkers struggling to pay their rent and tap into federal funds that could go unused.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday, Cuomo said the state’s rental relief program appropriated up to $100 million from the federal stimulus known as the Cares Act, but because of eligibility requirements, only $40 million in rental aid had been distributed so far to eligible applicants, about 15,000 New York households. 

“By executive order I'm going to change the law. I've spoken to the legislative leaders about this [need to] reopen the application window, extend the eligibility requirements to help more New Yorkers,” Cuomo says. He did not provide further details.

Currently, renters must earn less than 80 percent of the area median income—which in NYC is $90,960 for a four-person family and pay more than 30 percent of their income towards rent before the pandemic. As Gothamist notes, these tough restrictions meant nearly $60 million could be returned to the federal government by a December 30th deadline.

New Yorkers continue to face a dire need for rent assistance—and this move may not be enough to forestall a crisis.

Speaking on the Brick Underground Podcast, Andrew Scherer, visiting associate professor at New York Law School, says “the amount of rent in arrears right now is astronomical. The $100 million, which may sound like a lot of money in the abstract, compared to the actual billions of dollars now in rental arrears, is a drop in the bucket.”

Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the civil law reform unit at The Legal Aid Society, applauded the move but says New York State is to blame for the urgency.
 
“We welcome the news from Governor Cuomo that he will amend New York’s rent relief program to benefit more families in desperate need of housing assistance," she says. "Albany has just weeks to recalibrate this program to ensure that $60 million in resources reaches New Yorkers facing eviction and homelessness. This crisis was wholly self-made, the result of Albany waiting until the last second to act and then doing so only in the face of headlines and public pressure."

 

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