Democratic state lawmakers conferenced Monday on how best to fix the eviction moratorium that the U.S. Supreme Court blocked earlier this month. Lawmakers also worked on how to get $2.7 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) money out the door faster.
New York’s ERAP provides for households at or below 80% of the area median income, that have experienced COVID-19-related hardship with 12 months of back rent accrued since March 13, 2020. It will also pay up to three months toward future rent and up to 12 months of utility and gas payments.
One likely fix, according to NY1’s Zack Fink, is adding $300 million to ERAP.
It’s not yet clear whether Gov. Kathy Hochul will call for a special session of the legislature this week, or whether other issues might be addressed during such a session. Several sources have said such a session could take place as soon as Wednesday.
According to Albany area Democrat Assemblymember Pat Fahy, the conference is well aware of the burden the backlog in applications is having on both tenants and landlords.
“We care and need to prevent more homelessness, but continue to have concerns about the financial burden we are placing on small landlords to provide this safety net without compensation,” Fahy told Capital Tonight. “At the same time, we’re all frustrated with the pace of the state’s distribution of ERAP funds to help tenants & landlords.”
As of last week (Aug. 23), the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) had approved more than 46,427 applications for assistance out of 176,113 total applications. The total assistance paid out or promised is $808,470,981.
So far, 15,548 payments have been made to landlords. The total value of assistance payments has been $203,172,078. The total amount of assistance obligated but not yet paid is $605,298,903.
According to Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of The Legal Aid Society's Civil Law Reform Unit, while funding is starting to flow a little bit faster, it’s still too slow. She also told Capital Tonight that some landlords haven’t provided the necessary paperwork to access the money.
“I think there are a lot of reasons for that,” Goldiner said. “Landlords, like a lot of the tenants we talk to, are really struggling with the program and the platform. Certainly, some of the landlords are refusing, though I doubt [there are] a lot of those.”
Landlords who are refusing to fill out the paperwork may not want tenants continuing to live in their properties for another year without a rent increase.
“Again, I think there are very few of those,” Goldiner said. “I think that most of the problem is the same glitchiness that they’ve seen with the website and that they don’t know what to do."
One serious glitch has already been rectified.
OTDA has restored the “Save & Resume” feature, which Goldiner explains, will allow tenants and landlords to begin the application process, get assigned a number, and present it to a housing court judge as proof that an application is in the process of being accessed.
While the application process is underway, tenants may not be evicted.