Local Leaders Demand Answers Over Lack of Rent Relief Disbursement

Kingston, NY – Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess), Senator Michelle Hinchey (D-Saugerties), Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro today sent a letter to Commissioner Michael Hein admonishing the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance over the absence of Emergency Rental Assistance (ERAP) funding going to those in arrears more than two months after federal monies were granted to New York State.

According to data from the Office of the State Comptroller, 22% of tenants in New York are behind on rent, compared to the national rate of 15%. To address this housing crisis, the federal government allocated $46 billion for rental assistance programs, with $2.4 billion directed to New York. Despite enrollment for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program opening on June 1, 2021, New York State failed to administer a single dollar until July 21st, a stark contrast to the 49 other states that successfully launched their programs. The inexplicable administrative delay could have dire consequences. New York tenants and landlords are at risk of losing out altogether. If 65% or more of the fund has not been disbursed by September 30th, the money must be returned to the federal government.

“There are real human costs to the delays by OTDA in releasing these funds,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “We are two weeks away from the end of the eviction moratorium and as these setbacks on the part of the Commissioner continue, more tenants will fall behind on rent, more landlords will be facing financial ruin and property owners will be forced to decide whether to proceed with evictions or hold out in hope for this relief. This untenable situation could have been avoided had the OTDA Commissioner and the Governor been transparent about difficulties facing the program.”

Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Our state and federal governments have fought to ensure that New Yorkers who lost income during this pandemic and economic crisis, through no fault of their own, can access the funding assistance they desperately need to stay in their homes. Now, because of administrative failures on the part of OTDA, the $2-plus billion in rental aid we secured is at risk of being reallocated to different states and municipalities. I join my colleagues at all levels of government in calling on OTDA to quickly address the inefficiencies and access barriers that are preventing these funds from being distributed to the renters and small landlords who need it most. We cannot delay this critical assistance any longer.”

In addition to their problems disbursing the assistance, OTDA has not responded to requests by local government officials for data on the number of applicants, total completed applications, approval rate or actual benefit amount. This information is critical for counties to provide better service and information to those seeking relief.

“This is an unacceptable failure right at a moment when hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, both renters and landlords, are in desperate need of relief. This must be fixed immediately. I know incoming Governor Hochul is committed to addressing this and I look forward to working with her team to do so,” said Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many of our most vulnerable residents, and this assistance is desperately needed. It is unconscionable that the State has dangled the hope of this assistance in front of so many, only to leave them in the dark about if their application has been approved or if they will ever receive assistance,” Said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

“We are calling on OTDA to recognize and quickly rectify their mistakes by adequately assisting applicants, maximizing relief and sharing necessary data with local governments. We look forward to immediate action and open communication with solutions that are mindful of the needs of our communities,” concluded Cahill.