In 2020, the pandemic forced a global reset. COVID-19 hit the world unexpectedly resulting in both direct and indirect financial hardship.For some, this hardship was a result of a reduction in household income due to factors like reduced wages, closed businesses, sickness, and employment termination. For others, it was due to increased household expenses. Overall, it meant that the American economy suffered a downturn.
While it may be said to be in recovery now, millions of Americans have accumulated huge rental debts, and are on the verge of losing their apartments. Many need rest assistance to be able to keep up with their rent payments after losing their jobs to the pandemic. Invariably, many need help with rent.
To cushion the effects on the average citizen, the government launched the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) across the United States. New York lawmakers allocated $2.7 billion in state and federal funding to the rent assistance initiative. This means renters across the state can breathe a sigh of relief.
ERAP is an economic relief program designed to help qualified New York residents get rent assistance. Such households must be residing in their primary residence in New York State. Additionally, they must have accumulated the specified rental and utility bills during the COVID-19 crisis. The relief fund is to ease pressure on both landlords and their tenants.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program covers rent arrears from March 13, 2020. It covers up to 12 months arrears, and 3 more months of rent assistance for future rent. The relief fund also covers up to 12 months arrears for electric or gas utility bills incurred arrears on or after March 13, 2020.
This is unlike the COVID Rent Relief Program, which was the equivalent of a one-time rent subsidy. It was disbursed over a two months period in 2020. The goal was to reduce a household’s rent burden.
Seven communities received ERAP funding directly from the federal government. Funds for other counties are administered centrally by state services.
The seven communities are the City of Rochester and Monroe County, Town of Hempstead, Town of Oyster Bay, Town of Islip, Onondaga County, City of Yonkers. Those who stay in those communities should not expect to access ERAP from the state as the communities choose to administer their programs.
For those in other parts of New York State, payments are made directly to the tenant's landlord/property owner and utility company. The tenants will receive notifications about how much was paid on their behalf.
If a landlord is unreachable while the process of disbursement is ongoing, funds are held for 180 days. This is to improve landlord participation and provide tenant protections.
Not everyone needs rent assistance. As such, not everyone is eligible. Even if you have no immigration status, you can still receive ERAP funds. However, this is only as long as you need help with rent and meet the criteria. Applicants for the rent assistance must:
• Have a household of gross income with under 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). These income limits differ by county and household size. A household may qualify based on either current monthly income or calendar year 2020 income at or below 80% AMI. • Show that a member of the household received unemployment benefits, or experienced other financial hardship, directly or indirectly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. • Be obligated to pay rent and have rental arrears (rent overdue) at their current residence for rent owed on or after March 13, 2020. • Be at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. This is demonstrable by having rental arrears owed on or after March 13, 2020.
Primarily to qualify for this fund, you need to prove that you're a resident in New York. You also need to show how much you owe. The following documents will come in handy:
Because it is a new initiative, The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) has enlisted the help of social services districts and community-based organizations. These organizations help spread the word. Additionally, they assist tenants and landlords in completing their applications. They also provide internet access, assist with uploading documentation, and answer ERAP-related questions. You can also confirm your ERAP application status with them.