The New York State COVID Rent Relief Program, established by the state’s Legislature to help households experiencing rent burden due to a loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic, will begin accepting applications this week.
The applications will be available online on New York state’s website beginning Thursday, July 16.
The program will provide households with a one-time rental subsidy that will be sent directly to the household’s landlord. The assistance payment will cover the difference between the household’s rent burden on March 1, 2020, and the increase in rent burden for the months the household is applying for assistance. Households will be able to apply for the assistance for up to four months.
For households to be eligible, the following criteria must be met:
- Before March 1, 2020, and at the time of application, household income must have been below 80 percent of the area median income, adjusted for household size. You can find your county’s area median income, based on your household size: www.hcr.ny.gov/eligible-income-limits-80-ami-county
- Before March 1, 2020, and at the time of application, the household must have been paying more than 30 percent of gross monthly income toward rent. Gross income includes wages as well as any cash grants, child support, social security, unemployment benefits, etc.
- Applicants must have lost income during the period of April 1, 2020, to July 31, 2020.
Additionally, households with at least one household member with U.S. Citizenship or eligible immigration status are qualified to receive the subsidy. Tenants currently receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher for housing costs or who reside in public housing are not eligible for RRP assistance.
The program’s website also has a section with Frequently Asked Questions, which are translated in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian Creole and Bengali.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the emergency program’s launch on Tuesday.
“Since day one we made it clear that no New Yorkers should be thrown on the streets because of hardships caused by this pandemic,” Cuomo said. “It’s critically important that people are able to stay safely in their homes as we progress through our data-driven, phased reopening, and the COVID Rent Relief Program reinforces that commitment with direct assistance to those in the greatest need.”
The program will be administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Officials say the program is funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is part of the CARES Act.
COVID Rent Relief stems from Manhattan Senator Brian Kavanagh’s legislation, the Emergency Rent Relief Act, which Cuomo signed into law in June.
“Since this pandemic started, New York has fought back hard to save lives and keep people safe, but we haven’t done nearly enough for the many New Yorkers who have been struggling to pay rent and stay in their homes,” Senator Kavanagh stated in a press release. “While we need a lot more funding to cover a much wider range of people, including those currently homeless and those whose immigration status makes it difficult to access other forms of assistance, this program is an important first step toward supporting New Yorkers in need of relief.”
Queens Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney and Grace Meng applauded the program, but said there is still much to do to solve the renter crisis.
“For months, I have led calls for relief to be provided to New Yorkers struggling to pay their rent. I thank the governor for establishing this program and look forward to doing more to help additional New Yorkers who have been forced to endure this severe financial burden through no fault of their own,” Meng said in a statement. “But this is a first step forward to solving a major issue and I will continue to use my spot on the House Appropriations Committee — which funds the federal government — to combat the renter crisis.”
They also called on the Senate to pass the Heroes Act.
“New York state is once again leading the way and the Senate should follow suit by passing the House’s Heroes Act, which includes a $100 billion fund for rent relief, and H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act,” Maloney said. “Nobody should lose sleep worried about how they will keep a roof over their heads, especially during a pandemic.”
The COVID Rent Relief program comes months after the Cancel Rent movement, which has now become the Eviction Free NY movement, called on Cuomo to cancel rent altogether for New Yorkers who have faced financial hardship due to the pandemic and have not received government stimulus.