New York State’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program opened Tuesday, June 2, and with Astoria Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani’s advocacy, Arabic-speaking people can now easily access applications.
At the time this program was initially proposed, Arabic was not one of the listed languages for translated applications.
“If you can’t even read the application, if you can’t even submit the application, then there’s absolutely no chance of success in terms of attaining any relief funds,” Mamdani said. “We have so many Astorians for whom Arabic is their primary language.”
Mamdani mentioned he witnessed many Arabic speakers being left out of the previous rental assistance program and wanted this relief effort to be more accessible.
“We cannot create programs, and then create hurdle after hurdle and express surprise when money goes left unspent and constituents are left unhelped,” Mamdani said. “That’s what happened last time; we had $100 million set aside for rent relief, overly strict guidelines, and then less than $50 million was actually released and dispersed.”
Mamdani said that language should not be another barrier to this relief since the previous effort failed to help thousands. The CARES Act only helped 15,022 out of about 94,000 people due to difficult state eligibility requirements. Mamdani has dedicated his first term to rectifying those losses.
“Housing is a critical issue for me, and it’s also a critical issue for Astorians across our entire district,” Mamdani said. ”Every single state program and every single way in which the state can provide assistance [should] not be closed off to certain communities because of their inability of attaining English language fluency, especially when we so proudly tout Queens as the most diverse county in the United States.”
The $2.4 billion rental assistance program that opened this week will be processing applications by priority groups for the first 30 days. Those groups include the unemployed, those with an income at or below 50 percent of the median income; tenants with pending eviction cases; tenants living in a building with 20 or fewer units; and households in areas disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Eligible renters can receive up to 12 months of past-due rent, three months of additional rental assistance and 12 months of utility payments, regardless of immigration status.
The application is available on the New York State website, and there’s also an assistance hotline at 844-691-7368.
For additional assistance with application, New Yorkers can reach out to these Queens organizations: RiseBoro Community Partnership: 718-547-2800; Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc: 646-248-6602; Catholic Charities Neighborhood Services (CCNS): 718-722-6001; and Make the Road New York’s English and Spanish websites.