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Jackson Heights councilman calls for expansion of immigrant tenant protections

Councilman Daniel Dromm introduces a resolution calling for the expansion of DRIE protections to all immigrant New Yorkers with disabilites. (Courtesy Dromm's office)

With tenant protections on the minds of many Queens residents during the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Councilman Daniel Dromm introduced a resolution in the Immigration Committee calling for immigrant New Yorkers to be eligible for the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) program.

“Since I took office, my office has been helping constituents apply for what is popularly known as the Rent Freeze Program, which helps low-income seniors and disabled New Yorkers stay in their homes,” Dromm said. “In addition to meeting financial criteria, recipients of the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, or SCRIE, must be at least 62 years of age. Recipients of the Disability Rent Increase Exemption, or DRIE, must show that they receive federal benefits, mainly through Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. SCRIE and DRIE are invaluable to many of the residents of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and throughout the city.”

The DRIE program assists tenants with a disability who qualify to have their rent frozen at their current rate. Tenants would also be exempt from future rent increases starting from the date of their initial application approval.

“Representing an incredibly immigrant-rich district and having chaired the Committee on Immigration my first term, I always try to remain sensitive to the immigrant perspective,” Dromm said. “I bring this lens to my work as chair of the Committee on Finance, overseeing the Department of Finance, which administers SCRIE and DRIE.

“Sadly, much government assistance in our society is denied to immigrants in need, and DRIE is no exception. Many disabled individuals in my district and throughout the city are ineligible, for no other reason than their immigration status. They do not qualify for the relevant federal programs and, therefore, do not qualify for DRIE. It is fundamentally unfair that the most vulnerable of the vulnerable are prevented from accessing the very programs that are supposed to be helping them. SCRIE has been working to assist our seniors, regardless of their immigration status. And there is absolutely no reason why DRIE should not do the same.”

Dromm’s resolution is in concert with a bill currently sponsored by Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas and state Senator Gustavo Rivera to remove anti-immigrant barriers to disability housing assistance throughout the state.

“New York state is the home to millions of our immigrant neighbors with a majority living in New York City. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we learned just how nuanced these communities’ needs are and that they are at the intersection of vast health care and economic disparities,” González-Rojas said. “So we can no longer ask these New Yorkers to choose healthcare or housing, public assistance or legal support; they need it all and it is the government’s job to get it to them.

“Coming off of a major statewide win for our excluded workers, I am proud to be joining Senator Gustao Rivera in introducing legislation that will expand eligibility for the Disability Rent Increase Exemption to our immigrant neighbors who are excluded from the program. I am grateful to Councilman Dromm for his ongoing support of our most vulnerable communities is his resolution in the Council and I look forward to getting this legislation passed.”

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