(WIVB) — Governor Hochul is shifting the state’s emergency rent relief program into high gear. Thousands of Western New Yorkers could be affected and social service agencies are kicking it up a notch, too.

New York has set up $2.7 billion, in state and federal funding, for its Emergency Rental Assistance Program, known as ERAP, but only a fraction of that money has been distributed.

Governor Hochul is adding people to process applications and insists the state will do better.

“I want the money out now, I want it out with no more excuses and delays,” said Governor Hochul.

Within hours of taking over the reins of state government, Governor Kathy Hochul made it crystal clear she is not at all satisfied with the pace emergency rental assistance is getting out. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers could lose their homes due to COVID-19 complications, but the rental assistance program can stop that.

“New Yorkers should know, if you apply and qualify for this money, you will be protected from eviction for a solid year. Let me repeat, if you apply and qualify, you will not be evicted for a year,” Governor Hochul added.

Some high need cities and counties are getting additional assistance, including Buffalo which received $50 million for housing assistance to cover back rent and utility bills.

Mayor Byron Brown calls the program “Stand Up Buffalo,” to help tenants and their landlords.

“The rental assistance that they need, able to get the utility payment assistance that they need and that landlords whose tenants have not been able to pay, get the assistance for their tenants that they need, so that they can recoup that money,” said Mayor Brown.

Once the ERAP application is filed, an eviction proceeding is frozen, but tenants and landlords have to work together to receive emergency assistance for up to a year.

“It is important for housing providers who have not been able to collect rent now for many months, and it is important for tenants who are experiencing a significant loss of housing stability,” said Grace Andriette of Neighborhood Legal Services.

New York’s moratorium on evictions runs out Tuesday, August 31. A federal moratorium is in place until October 3, but it is on shaky ground in the courts.

For help applying for ERAP, call the 211 information line.

Transition of Power

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.