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Last week, New York State shut down its Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) portal, as it reportedly did not have enough funds to accept new applications.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in a press release that the state had requested another $996 million from the federal Treasury Department to pay existing applicants. That announcement has left tenants and property owners with no relief or recourse—particularly at a time when the state’s eviction protections are set to expire in just a few weeks.

After some initial tech glitches and hiccups, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (ODTA) finally got its act together and started disbursing funds in August of this year. Since the portal opened, nearly 280,000 households applied and, to date, payments have been issued to about 81,209 qualifying households. Unless there is a federal infusion of cash, it appears that the remaining tenants, while approved, may not receive financial assistance.

As for low-income tenants and property owners that have not yet applied, OTDA posted a warning on its website that the money that had been allocated was all but gone. Applications will now be accepted only from renters and landlords in eight specific counties “where allocations have not yet been exhausted.” These include the likes of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester, but none of the five counties that make up New York City. That does not, however, mean that the demand from local renters has died down.

“The demand has not tapered off,” said Scott Auwarter of BronxWorks, a Bronx-based pro-tenant nonprofit. “Our call center is as busy as ever. We are seeing an increase in the number of clients who have been denied ERAP assistance and are trying to figure out how best to handle the appeals process.” Auwarter worries that a lot of tenants do not currently feel the danger of losing their apartment and will start scrambling only after the eviction protections expire on Jan. 15. “I am very concerned that some of the most needy tenants have not yet applied and won’t until the eviction moratorium is lifted.”

A pro-landlord group, Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), shares that concern. “More than 100,000 New Yorkers with significant rent arrears have not yet applied for ERAP,” said CHIP’S executive director, Jay Martin.

Senate Member, and Chair of the Housing Committee, Brian Kavanagh believes suspending new applications was a “catastrophically bad decision” that would leave families vulnerable to losing their homes. In many cases, just applying for relief can be used as a defense in an eviction case. When asked whether tenants can still send in applications and use those submissions as a defense against eviction proceedings, OTDA offered no response.

SOURCE (SUBSCRIPTION MAY BE REQUIRED) - https://therealdeal.com/2021/11/12/state-pulls-the-plug-on-rent-relief/