New York county executives group calls on state to get the rent checks out

Around New York State

(WIVB) — Elected officials from across New York are turning up the heat on the state’s social services agency to get the rent checks out and thousands of New Yorkers need the emergency funds to avoid possible eviction.

Late this afternoon, the state’s county executives sent a letter to the commissioner for the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, accusing the agency of a “colossal failure” in getting emergency rental assistance out.. and as a result, some tenants could lose their homes, and the state could lose some of that money.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted a copy of the letter the New York State County Executives’ Association sent to OTDA Commissioner Michael Hein, citing the agency’s failure to get out millions of dollars in rent relief from the government, and that due to the “colossal failure,” New York may be at risk of having its federal assistance reallocated to other states.

The county officials were referencing a report from the state comptroller.

“Let’s say we have 100,000 applicants that get the maximum $15,000 that is $1.5 billion,” Deputy State Comptroller Rahul Jain said. “That means we did not use the entire program. So it is in everybody’s best interest, including the agency I think would admit in theirs, to continue to push this forward to get the applicants through the door, and then to process those.”

Jain said the need is there, but OTDA needed to do a better job of getting the qualified renters’ applications in and approved.

He told us, the obstacles seemed to be much worse for New York City renters. In Western New York, the application process seems to be improving since Senator Chuck Schumer called out the OTDA’s poor performance last month.

“I think maybe the application process is a little bit easier, and many more people are making their way through the process and actually now beginning to receive these checks,” Restoration Society’s Jean Bennett said.

Officials are stepping up their efforts to get the checks out through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, called ERAP for short, because the state’s eviction moratorium expires at the end of the month.

But Bennett told us, some tenants are going to lose their homes, despite the moratorium.

“This moratorium does not mean you don’t have to pay your rent. It means this was there as a way to catch people who had something unfortunate happen during this pandemic where they could not pay their rent,” Bennett added.

She also says landlords should work with their tenants to get paid.

“All the landlord has to do is have enough of a relationship with the the tenant, but the tenant will actually access the system as well, and they have to access the system together,” Bennett said.

Just a short time ago, the OTDA sent us a statement saying they have distributed, or approved, nearly $700 million to landlords, in a little more than two months, to head off evictions, which puts New York among the top states for getting the emergency funds out.

Below is the OTDA’s response:

“As anticipated, New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program is providing critical assistance and eviction protections to help New Yorkers avoid housing insecurity. More than $638 million has either been approved for or distributed to landlords, which now places the state among the leaders nationally in funding obligated.”

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