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While COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the globe, New York tenants may finally be able to secure some rent relief—provided they meet the strict eligibility requirements.

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an emergency rental assistance program that seeks to keep low-income renters in their homes. Designed to provide direct aid to those who suffered financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic—the program is funded through the federal CARES Act and administered by the New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

Applications will be accepted online (link here - https://hcr.ny.gov/RRP) until July 30, 2020, and can be filed at any time prior to that deadline. For those with the “greatest economic and social need,” the program offers one-time rental subsidies paid directly to landlords and housing providers. (Tenants will not be required to repay that money.)

In order to qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  1. have a primary residence in New York State;
  2. must have a household income below 80% of the median income for the county and household size (information available here) for the period March 1, 2020 to the time of the application;
  3. more than 30% of the household’s gross monthly income was dedicated to rent for the period March 1, 2020 to the time of the application; and
  4. applicants must have lost income during the COVID-19 crisis (during the period April 1, 2020 up to the time of application).

The state’s vouchers will not cover full rent and will only apply towards the difference between the household's "rent burden" as of March 1, 2020, and the increase in the rent burden due to the impact of COVID-19 (click here to see how the state defines “rent burden”).

While the program is open to tenants in rental apartments, single-family homes, manufactured homes, and manufactured-home lots, it excludes tenants receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher for housing costs or who reside in public housing.

This relief is not only available to those that are behind on rent, but also to those eligible households that have already paid their rent between April and July, with the latter having the option to use the aid as a pre-payment of future rent, beginning August 1, 2020. The money may also be applied to replenish the security deposit, if the sums held in trust were used to pay rent.

This announcement comes on the heels of the Governor’s signing of the Tenant Safe Harbor Act -- (more fully discussed here) -- which seeks to prevent residential tenants from being evicted for nonpayment of rent due to a loss of employment or a cut in pay. Currently, there is also a moratorium in effect on COVID-related residential or commercial evictions, and a prohibition on the collection of late fees or payments for missed rent.

While this latest program offers some support, and is welcomed by qualifying tenants, others have openly expressed that our government isn’t doing enough. Cea Weaver, of the statewide “Housing Justice for All" coalition,¬†described the measure as “woefully inadequate.” Manhattan State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who sponsored the bill, acknowledged that this program does not address the concerns of non-qualifying renters who also owe rent due to lost income, and noted that, “While we need a lot more funding to cover a much wider range of people . . . this program is an important first step toward supporting New Yorkers in need of relief.”