The state is struggling to get rent relief for tenants in a pandemic – NBC4 Washington

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in July last year that New York would spend $ 100 million to rescue the federal coronavirus to help underfunded tenants pay months of rent and avoid evictions.

By the end of October, the state had donated only about $ 40 million, reaching 15,000 of the nearly 100,000 people seeking help. More than 57,000 applicants were rejected due to criteria set by lawmakers who said it was difficult for many to meet.

The New York experience was spread nationwide, and the state was unable to spend tens of millions of dollars aimed at helping renters avoid evictions. Troublesome requirements, poorly managed programs, and landlords who refused to cooperate meant that tens of thousands of tenants were unsupported. Some states were also afraid to shift their money from rental bailouts and miss their obligation to spend year-end money. This has been extended.

According to home advocates, the problem is that the federal government has not specifically designated coronavirus aid for rental bailouts, and the state is struggling to launch a program without guidance on how to allocate funds. It was to be. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, $ 3.43 billion in federal aid was spent on rental aid. But supporters should have done more, given that tenants faced $ 34 billion in unpaid rent by January, according to a report released by the National Housing Agency Council.

The state rental bailout program “has been a very complex success. It was a patchwork of a kind of program,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen of the Democratic Party of Maryland in February. “There were many experiments. Some were successful and some were unsuccessful.”

Since then, some states have changed and hope to be able to handle some of the over $ 45 billion in rental assistance from Congress within the next few months.

Last year, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kansas were one of the states that struggled to distribute rental assistance. Kansas secured $ 35 million, but sucked up $ 15 million for other uses and realized only on December 27th that he had more time to spend.

Mississippi has allocated $ 18 million for rental relief, but promised less than $ 3 million by December. The state said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has determined that the subsidy program it relies on cannot help rent delinquents, only those at risk of the homeless. It was. A HUD spokesman denied that the money could be used for rental assistance.

In New York, lawmakers were accused of having problems with their standards, including showing that residents pay more than 30% of their income for rent. Applicants also had to show a loss of income from April to the end of July when there was an increase in unemployment or other benefits.

“If you have $ 100 million in support and only 40% is spent, something is wrong. I’m sure many people are in trouble,” he said. Mobilization for Justice Inc, a non-profit legal service provider in New York. Justin La Mort, the chief lawyer of.

He said the program was too focused on fraud prevention — at the expense of helping people.

Bonnie Ginette, who ran out of massage therapy business during the pandemic, said she applied for help in July and was rejected in October because she couldn’t prove a loss of income. A 66-year-old New Yorker resident is currently renting over $ 26,000 in a one-bedroom apartment and is afraid to evict.

“This is a meaningful program and probably needs to be fixed and needs to be fixed, but it’s hard to say because how much the system has experienced and may still be overloaded. “Ginett said. “There is probably a kind of remedy that can help me, but then you hit a brick wall.”

Her landlord and Sussex Realty partner, Leonard Katz, said she didn’t understand how Ginette couldn’t get help.

“We believe it’s a tragedy that New York couldn’t or didn’t want to make money for tenants and landlords who were desperately in need of help during the Covid crisis,” he said. Said in an email.

Charni Sochet, a spokesman for New York State Homes and Community Renewal, said affordable housing agencies “focused on rent-paying households for months to get qualified support.” Most needed according to the specific requirements established by Congress. “

There was a similar problem in Pennsylvania, with nearly $ 175 million spent on the program, $ 54 million for rental assistance and $ 10 million for mortgage assistance. Just over one-third of the applicants got help.

Faced with the Republican-controlled state legislature’s November 30 deadline, the state’s Department of Housing Finance has returned most of it. Some of them were sent to the correction department.

Bryce Maletsuki, director of the Strategic Planning and Policy Bureau of the Housing Corporation, said:

Perhaps the biggest problem was the $ 750 / month cap. This is below the median rent in Pennsylvania, which is not enough in big cities with high home prices.

The applicant also had to delay the rent by 30 days. This meant that someone could be late to qualify, and only “risk of losing their home and disqualifying the program.”

“Many tenants didn’t think they could make the money, so they thought they couldn’t make the next month’s rent, so they moved with their families, doubled, or found inappropriate homes. “Rachel Garland said. , Attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.

In Louisiana, $ 24 million in aid to lessees facing pandemic-related financial problems was announced on July 16. About half is funded by the federal government.

Only $ 2.3 million was distributed to 956 applicants, said Keith Cunningham of the Louisiana Housing Corporation, the agency that oversees the effort. The program was full of inquiries and the online system shut down within a few days. And there was a long application.

“Do you think the person contacting you has enough fax machines or enough internet or printers at home to handle the 50-page application?” Andrea Nessia Morris of the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance? Said.

Cunningham said the scale of the program was daunting and made even more difficult by the busy tropical cyclone season.

“No one in the state is doing anything to that extent. We didn’t have the infrastructure or the systems we provided …. we really had to build from scratch.”

Yaeko Scott, who lost her housework during a pandemic and rented $ 6,000 in a family’s two-bedroom apartment in New Orleans, said she was repeatedly seeking help.

“I’m getting worse,” she said. “Nothing is done. Everyone is asking about rent. I don’t get anything. Now it’s really, really rough.”

Some states have made changes with the arrival of new federal aid.

In Louisiana, about 7,000 applicants initially considered will be prioritized for $ 161 million, Cunningham said.

Pennsylvania said it would amend the $ 750 rent cap by reinterpreting the law and another agency would process the new funds.

New York will expand the program’s eligibility and review the first rejected applicant.


Casey reported from Boston. Marc Levy, Associated Press writer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Marina Building Neuve in Albany, NY. John Hannah in Topeka, Kansas. Kevin McGill of New Orleans contributed to this report.

The state is struggling to get rent relief for tenants in a pandemic – NBC4 Washington

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