Newly sworn in Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin will be given a portfolio of policy issues ranging from public housing to the distribution of emergency rental assistance, as well as promoting efforts to vaccinate more New Yorkers.
A former state senator, Benjamin is the second Black lieutenant governor in New York history, and will likely be a crucial conduit to political officials in New York City for a governor from western New York.
Benjamin, sworn in as Gov. Kathy Hochul's number two, will lead a task force on the New York City Housing Authority.
He will also be tasked with an effort to help distribute more funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, a multibillion-dollar fund that officials have struggled to get money out the door.
So far, $300 million has been sent to tenants and landlords out of $2.1 billion in federal and state aid available.
"We want to make sure that that number is ramped up much quicker, and I will work with our governor to make sure it will do so," Benjamin said.
Tackling the New York City Housing Authority and the myriad issues facing residents will also be a tall order. Benjamin on Thursday said the details of his task force are still be worked out.
"We can and must do better as New York state," he said. "I will give my level best to make sure we get that job done."
But Benjamin faced questions on Thursday surrounding his stock ownership in a company that provides loans with high interest rates. Benjamin said his record on housing issues "speaks for itself."
"I support making sure we don't have extremely high interest rates for hard-working Americans," he said.
Benjamin is a ticket-balancing candidate for Hochul, a Buffalo resident who plans to run for a full term next year. Hochul will likely face a primary next June, and the lieutenant governor runs separately from the top of the ticket in a primary.
But Benjamin indicated Thursday he and Hochul will be presenting themselves as a team.
"It is my intention to run for lieutenant governor," Benjamin said, "and I will be supporting Gov. Hochul."