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Higher-income New Yorkers now eligible for rent relief

At the grand opening of Huntington's Emergency Rental

At the grand opening of Huntington's Emergency Rental Assistance Program Center on Aug. 20, tenants and landlords were urged to use the center for help applying for federal rent relief. The newest programs are using state funds. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The state is expanding its COVID rent relief program's reach by serving higher-income New Yorkers as well as landlords whose tenants left them with arrears.

Last week, the state's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance began accepting applications from New Yorkers who earn up to 120% of their area's median income, up from the prior 80% limit. On Long Island, 120% of the area median income is $109,200 for a single person and $155,880 for a family of four, according to OTDA.

OTDA also is setting up an initiative that extends aid to landlords with tenants who left the property without paying arrears or otherwise refused to apply for the assistance. The agency anticipates opening up applications for this in October.

Both changes were authorized in early September when the state revamped and extended the moratorium on evictions until Jan. 15, 2022, according to State Senate Housing, Construction and Community Development Chair Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan).

The bulk of the $2.4 billion in rent relief that the state started distributing this summer came from the federal government and can't be used for these populations. So the state budgeted $125 million for those earning between 80 and 120% of their area's median income and another $125 million for landlords whose tenants can't be located. The allocation of the $250 million could change based on where the need is higher, according to Kavanagh's office.

Besides meeting income requirements, applicants must have suffered financially because of COVID-19 and been unable to pay their rent in full at some point from March 13, 2020 on. The assistance may cover up to 12 months of unpaid rent and utility bills, as well as three months of prospective rent. If qualified, the aid will be sent directly to landlords on behalf of their tenants.

OTDA has received nearly 205,400 applications for rent relief, including about 560 from Nassau and 3,650 from Suffolk, according to agency reports released September 14. OTDA has issued nearly $398.97 million to 30,750 landlords, the reports show. Roughly $1.79 million has gone to landlords in Nassau and $8.61 million to those in Suffolk, the reports show.

The agency's data shows about 90,750 applications from tenants have been approved, but are awaiting verification from landlords. These could amount to nearly $1.18 billion in rent relief, according to OTDA estimates.

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