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The state will run out of federal rent relief in early October, Hochul says

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks at a

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks at a press conference in Harlem. Aug. 26. Credit: Chris Ware

Gov. Kathy Hochul wrote U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen requesting more federal coronavirus rent relief and noted that the state is slated to run through its $2.4 billion allocation by early October.

The state has distributed $517.5 million in rental assistance to landlords and set aside another $1.08 billion that's been approved based on tenant paperwork but is awaiting verification on the landlord side, according to the letter.

The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has received 205,000 applications and issued payments on behalf of more than 40,000 low- and moderate-income households that couldn't pay their rent because of hardship brought on by COVID-19, the letter said. But the agency expects to allocate the remaining money by early October and is still receiving about 9,000 applications a week, Hochul said.

"New York State is rapidly reaching a critical milestone as all [Emergency Rental Assistance Program] funding allocated to it by the United States Treasury will soon be fully obligated or distributed," Hochul said in the letter. The term "obligated" refers to applications that have been approved based on tenant paperwork, but must be matched with or reconciled with landlord filings.

"Given that we are at this very critical juncture, I am writing to provide you with an update of the rapid progress we have made with our program and to formally request additional funding to further meet the needs of tenants who have significant rental debt and who could face eviction and long-term housing instability without additional federal assistance," she wrote.

Starting Sept. 30, the Treasury can take back rent relief that other states and municipalities have not used and give it to jurisdictions like New York that have distributed or obligated at least 65% of their funds, Hochul wrote. She argued that the initial funding formula was based on population size and didn't take into account that a relatively large proportion of New Yorkers rent.

The Treasury did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The rent relief funds may be depleted sooner than Hochul expects, according to one group's estimate.

The Community Housing Improvement Program, a trade group for New York City landlords, believes the state will use up its money by Monday.,

After accounting for administrative costs, OTDA received a total of about $2.15 billion in assistance, CHIP said. About $1.58 billion had been distributed or obligated by Sept. 14, according to the agency's reports. OTDA will likely have earmarked the remaining $570 million by Monday, CHIP estimated, based on reports showing OTDA is approving about 3,590 applications a day, and each household is eligible for an average of $12,974.

OTDA will accept applications for as long as funding is available, spokesman Justin Mason said, adding: "We are continually evaluating the number of applications we have on hand and will act accordingly in the coming weeks."

Tenants will be shielded from eviction while their rent relief applications are processed. A state moratorium on evictions until Jan. 15, 2022, may also protect tenants who can demonstrate they weren't able to pay rent because of the pandemic.

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