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After more than a year of waiting, the application portal for New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program has finally opened. As of June 1, eligible tenants and landlords can apply for rental assistance to help them get back on their feet.

Many tenants have been unable to pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic, and landlords have been unable to collect rent for more than a year.

The New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) will provide significant economic relief to help low and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability by providing rental arrears, temporary rental assistance and utility arrears assistance.

Apply for ERAP HERE.

PIX11 spoke with Jack Newton, director of the public benefits unit at Bronx Legal Services to answer some of the common questions surrounding the rent relief program.

Watch the full conversation HERE.

Q: Are NYCHA residents eligible to apply for the Rental Assistance Program? 

Jack: Eligibility rules are the same regardless of someone’s residence. So, NYCHA tenants are eligible if:

  • They earn less than 80% of the area median income
  • Have experienced financial hardship as a result of COVID-19
  • Are facing eviction or housing instability and owe back rent that has accrued since or on March 13, 2020.

However, under the rules created by the legislature, some tenants have a lower priority than other tenants in terms of when they will be approved, which means that ERAP funding may run out before arrears are paid in lower priority groups. People with Section 8 and residents of NYCHA are in the lowest priority group of those eligible for ERAP and will only have their arrears paid by ERAP if sufficient funds remain after serving all other eligible populations.

Q: Do people qualify if they didn’t lose their jobs but their hours were cut down at work and they’re now struggling to pay rent? 

Jack: Yes! Eligibility for ERAP depends, in part, on whether a household experienced financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, either directly or indirectly. Both households that experienced a reduction in income and/or an increase in costs due to COVID-19 would be eligible.  

Reductions in income include having your work hours shortened, losing income due to unpaid sick days, furloughs, unemployment, businesses that closed, and other circumstances due to COVID-19.  

Increases in costs include new or increased health care costs, remote work expenses, at-home care (for someone with COVID), increased costs for essential items (like food, medicine, childcare, or transportation), purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), funeral costs, and other increased costs due to COVID-19. 

Q: Can people on public assistance apply?

Jack: Absolutely! People who receive public assistance should apply immediately for an ERAP grant. ERAP can work in combination with FHEPS, CityFHEPS, and one-shot deals, but applying for ERAP should be your first step. 

Q: Do you foresee any type of mortgage relief coming soon for people that own instead of rent? 

Jack: It’s an issue that has been discussed in different legislation, but I do not know of a comprehensive mortgage relief program in the near term. People with federally-backed mortgages may be eligible for forbearance, which is a temporary reprieve from paying the mortgage. Residents of New York who have a mortgage from an NYS-chartered bank or have state-regulated mortgages may be eligible to “pause” mortgage payments for up to 180 days, with an additional extension of up to 180 more days.  

Q: Does this program cover areas in Suffolk County and other parts of Long Island? 

Jack: ERAP is a state-wide program. People from across NYS may – and should – apply for ERAP.  Tenants should apply for ERAP. There are no immigration status requirements, and people will not be required to pay them back.  It’s important to remember that your landlord may not evict you for failure to pay rent during the time it takes for the state to make a decision on your ERAP application.