Cuomo unveils revamped COVID rent relief after two-week wait, advocates call for ‘blanket’ eviction moratorium 2020

Cuomo unveils revamped
Cuomo unveils revamped

ALBANY — Cuomo unveils revamped Gov. rent relief program meant to help tenants struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, just two weeks before federal funds for the measure are set to expire.Cuomo unveils revamped

Both tenant advocates and landlords had been anxiously awaiting the new guidance after Cuomo announced earlier this month he intended to issue an executive order expanding the state’s COVID rent relief measure after more than $60 million of an allotted $100 million in federal funds went unspent.

As the governor promised, the state will expand eligibility and reopen the application period, but the two-week delay left advocates and building owners nervous as the money from Washington is set to expire at the end of the year along with restrictions on evictions.Cuomo unveils revamped

“There’s no urgency from the governor, which is a little alarming,” said Vito Signorile, the vice president of communications for the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents more than 25,000 landlords across the five boroughs. “This is $60 million we’re talking about here.

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“Even if he issued the executive order on Dec. 3 you’re looking at only 27 days to get this together. Now, you’re down to 13 days, how much can you really get done?” he added.

The program, administered by the New York State Office of Homes & Community Renewal, will be reopened for application with “expanded eligibility criteria in an effort to serve New Yorkers who may have not had the opportunity to initially apply and those who may have been previously ineligible,” according to a guidance issued Thursday evening by the state.

New applications will be accepted starting Friday through Feb, 1, 2021.Cuomo unveils revamped

Eligibility has been changed to no longer require households to have been considered “rent burdened” prior to the pandemic in order to qualify. Rent burden is defined as paying more than 30% of monthly gross income towards rent. Applicants must have lost income between April 1 and July 31 and household income pre-pandemic must have been at or below 80% of the Area Median Income.

Cuomo unveils revamped

Those who previously applied for the funds will not have to reapply to be reconsidered. HCR will re-evaluate all denied applications according to the new criteria and let applicants know whether they are approved.

“HCR is acutely aware that this pandemic has put more pressure on New Yorkers who were already housing insecure, and these improvements to the Legislature’s original program will expand access to rent relief while building on Gov. Cuomo’s eviction protections,” agency commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said.

Advocates panned the delay and the program as a whole, saying it will do little to alleviate the financial crisis facing many renters in New York and instead called on Cuomo and state lawmakers to approve a blanket eviction moratorium before the end of the year.Cuomo unveils revamped

Cea Weaver, the campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All, said the measure just doesn’t meet the scale of the disaster facing tenants as federal limits on evictions, as well as a state law allowing landlords to seek money judgments as opposed to kicking renters to the curb both expire Dec. 31.

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“There’s a massive pressure valve of back rent that’s going up and up and up and this (executive order) isn’t really going to release any of that pressure,” Weaver said. “We need a blanket moratorium at least through the state budget.”

A pair of bills from Senate Democrats addressing residential evictions have floundered since the summer.

Lawmakers and legislative leaders have indicated in recent days that they expect to convene in the next week or two to address the issue, but it remains unclear what the ultimate outcome will be for anxious tenants.Cuomo unveils revamped

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said Monday that negotiations are ongoing between his chamber, Cuomo’s office and the Senate.

“We’re in the discussion stage of knowing that there’s huge amounts of needs, (so) what can we do that’s within our grasp,” Heastie said.Cuomo unveils revamped

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