New Yorkers urged to apply for rental assistance despite funding worries

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York’s Emergency Rent Relief Program (ERAP) reopened on January 11. The Legal Aid Society is urging tenants to apply for the program. However, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) said the state may not have the funding.

ERAP was designed to provide pandemic rental aid and temporary protection from eviction. The portal initially closed in November 2021 because New York ran out of available funds, said OTDA.

In December 2021, the Legal Aid Society sued OTDA, arguing that closing ERAP to new applicants before all funds were exhausted violated OTDA’s duties and exceeded its lawful authority. State Supreme Court Judge Lynn Kotler, of the 1st Judicial District, issued a preliminary injunction on January 6 ordering the state to reopen the application portal.

“After fully exhausting our initial funds for this program, New York State requested nearly $1 billion in reallocation funds from the U.S. Treasury — but received only $27 million, a sliver of what would be needed to cover existing applications, let alone new ones,” said OTDA.

OTDA said New York will be joining other states in sending a joint letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to request additional federal funding for the rent relief aid.

“Reopening the application portal without additional funding to support the backlog of existing and future applications runs the risk of giving struggling New Yorkers false hope for critical financial relief that — without federal intervention — simply doesn’t exist,” said OTDA.

Since its creation, ERAP has paid $1.25 billion in owed rent for 100,000 families and approved an additional $770 million for 62,000 families whose landlords have not yet completed paperwork needed for release of the payments, according to Legal Aid Society.

The Legal Aid Society said although the state has spent or committed all its current ERAP funds, it will be eligible to apply for additional funding in the spring from an $18 billion national pool of unspent ERAP funds.   

“We urge all New Yorkers in need of rent relief to immediately apply for funds through the OTDA web portal, as a pending application will provide temporary protection from eviction, regardless of whether the state receives additional funding. We are proud of our advocacy on behalf of our clients and all low-income New Yorkers, and will continue to monitor the implementation of statewide rent relief funds,” said Ed Josephson, Supervising Attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society.

Tenants in New York can apply for the program on OTDA’s website.

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