Half of NY’s $ 2.4 billion in rent assistance was blocked 6 months after launch – NBC New York

What there is to know

  • Nearly $ 1 billion to cover rent for New Yorkers who have suffered economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic has still not reached tenants six months after the program launched
  • The delay, according to state officials, is partly linked to missing documents. Around 82,000 rental assistance applications lodged by tenants up to September are still incomplete
  • One of the problems is that the state is struggling to match claims submitted by tenants with owner owners of the property.

Nearly $ 1 billion to cover rent for New Yorkers who have suffered economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic has still not been returned to tenants six months after the program launched.

This led to the exasperation, especially as the state warned that the $ 2.4 billion set aside for rent relief would likely not cover new applicants and most applications closed.

The delay, according to state officials, is in part linked to missing documents. About 82,000 rental assistance applications lodged by tenants up to September are still incomplete. About a third of those unfinished and tentatively approved requests date back to June, according to Anthony Farmer, spokesperson for the Office for Disability and Temporary Assistance.

One of the problems is that the state is struggling to match claims submitted by tenants with owner owners of the property. Some tenants did not provide owner contact information or mistakenly provided phone numbers for property management companies rather than owners, which is a problem because the program is designed to send funds directly to owners.

Farmer said the state hopes to someday unlock payments for two-thirds of the 82,000 claims that match homeowners who need to submit additional documents. Farmer did not provide a timeline for when this could happen.

The remaining third of applications are even more blocked because they are not associated with an owner or because an owner has not created an account on the online application portal, he said.

Meanwhile, some landlords say they are having trouble getting the necessary information from tenants or the state.

Brooklyn landlord Sharon Redhead said six tenants owed her about $ 50,000 in past rents and one failed to provide her with an application number needed for state documents. She received a computer-generated message from the state aid agency that included the number, but Redhead said part of that message was “gibberish” and it was not in. able to decipher it.

“I can’t link this tenant’s claim because I don’t have the claim number, and OTDA is unable to help,” Redhead said, referring to the Help Desk. temporary and disabled people.

Because of the delays, said Redhead, “both landlords and tenants are in this situation and tenants will be in even more debt because the program has taken so long.”

Farmer said the state has expanded its reach to landlords based on contact information provided by tenants and is trying to find new contact information for non-responsive landlords. He said the agency has enough workers to handle the requests: 1,750 employees, including 1,400 contractors and 100 state employees reassigned from other agencies.

Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents the residential housing industry, said his group would work with the administration to help locate landlords, including in cases where opaque limited liability companies own assets. buildings.

“We don’t know why they aren’t getting the money out as quickly as they should be,” he said.

Not all delays are due to bureaucratic obstacles. Some landlords do not want to participate in the program because if they do, they are prohibited from evicting the covered tenant for a year.

Brooklyn owner Cynthia Brooks said she didn’t want to keep a “squatter” who she said damaged her property, failed to pay rent, caused a cockroach infestation and knocked on the wall. door of his other tenant.

Still, Strasbourg said he believed it was “rare” for an owner to categorically refuse to accept checks: “They want the money,” he said. “They haven’t seen any payments for almost two years.”

New York does not release payments until an owner cooperates and provides contact information. Under the program’s rules, the state must try to collect the required documents for 180 days before giving up and reallocating the funds. Other states send money directly to the tenant or reject requests faster when landlords cannot be reached.

Farmer said the state will not reallocate funds in December.

New York’s online-only app portal – overseen by provider Guidehouse – also faced a series of issues this summer. Sometimes the portal erased applications and made it impossible to upload documents, according to The Associated Press interviews with dozens of tenants and community groups helping with applications.

“There seems to be a technical issue with the application process which has caused a lot of trouble and is slowing everything down,” said Ellen Davidson, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society.

Farmer, of the state aid agency, said the state fixes technical problems “quickly and as they arise.”

“These problems have not resulted in any widespread delay in tenant assistance, and the agency has never identified it as such,” he said.

Farmer said the state has sent more than 15,000 notices warning homeowners they will not receive payments without submitting the necessary documents.

The farmer did not say how many owners refused to participate.

But he said 43% of June’s 27,300 incomplete applications were not matched with an owner.

Governor Kathy Hochul, who took office in August, is now seeking an additional $ 1 billion in federal rent assistance to supplement what the state has already allocated.

Some advocacy groups representing landlords and tenants have also urged her to reopen the process for applying for rent relief, saying more than a quarter of a million applicants show the need for help has far exceeded what it is. the state has granted so far.


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