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State to open rent relief applications June 1, Cuomo says

The new program will distribute mostly federal funds

The new program will distribute mostly federal funds to help tenants and landlords. Here, activists protest outside New York City Hall on May 3.  Credit: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The state will begin accepting applications June 1 for a new $2.7 billion rent relief program, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Tuesday.

Months after receiving U.S. Treasury Department funding, the state is poised to launch the federal government's Emergency Rental Assistance Program in New York. The initiative may cover up to 12 months of unpaid rent and utility bills, and in some cases, three months of upcoming rent. To qualify, New Yorkers must have suffered a financial hardship because of COVID-19 and earn no more than 80% of their area's median income. That's $94,900 for a family of four on Long Island.

The Treasury began distributing ERAP funds in early 2021, and tenants and landlords have been frustrated with delays in setting up the state program.

Six localities on Long Island — Nassau and Suffolk counties and the towns of Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington and North Hempstead — have sent their combined $42.7 million in ERAP funds to the state, which will distribute the money on their behalf.

Through this partnership, residents of those localities and of most other areas on the Island may also access the $1.6 billion in ERAP aid that is not earmarked for specific communities. That money is not available to residents of three LI towns that opted to independently distribute their share of ERAP: Hempstead, Islip and Oyster Bay.

Unlike prior relief programs, the assistance is available to New Yorkers regardless of their immigration status and is expected to serve between 170,000 and 200,000 households statewide.

"This critical funding will help ensure New Yorkers who are experiencing financial hardship through no fault of their own will not be thrown onto the streets," Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo and state lawmakers have used an eviction moratorium to shield renters since the pandemic broke out. Those protections are slated to expire at the end of August.

The agency overseeing ERAP, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, will prioritize -- for the first 30 days -- applicants who are unemployed, who earn no more than 50% of their area's median income or who are among certain particularly vulnerable populations. After that, applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are spent. Aid will be sent directly to landlords of qualified tenants.

Long Islanders should apply within the first 30 days to take advantage of any prioritization they can, according to Vivian Storm, a spokeswoman for Nassau Suffolk Law Services, which provides free legal representation to those in need.

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