Hempstead Town Board members are awarding $22.7 million in rental assistance funds to middle- and low-income families struggling to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Town Supervisor Don Clavin announced the program Wednesday with the Hauppauge-based Long Island Housing Partnership. It will provide up to one year of assistance for about 1,500 residents to pay owed rent, overdue utility bills and future rent to ensure people stay in their homes.
"When people aren’t getting paid they still have to pay the bills," Clavin said. "This is real relief for people who need it."
Board members in April approved dispensing the funds from the U.S. Treasury Department under the federal COVID-19 Economic Relief package and distributed by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Clavin said the town could receive an additional $18 million for emergency rental assistance.
The program is set to open next month, said Peter Elkowitz, president of Long Island Housing Partnership.
"This rental assistance program will continue to help qualified renters to remain in their homes," Elkowitz said. "It’s important to get word out for those who need help and support."
Funding will cover rental arrears and other expenses, including energy costs, security deposits and application fees. Some renters may be eligible for an additional three months of funds after the first year to ensure housing stability.
Hempstead Town and village residents, excluding the City of Long Beach, can sign up for the program on the town’s website, Hempsteadny.gov, before the program officially opens in June. They will be asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine if they qualify.
Applications are based on first received, with priority given to those earning under 50% the median income, officials said.
Qualified town residents must have a household income at or below 80% the area’s median income determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Residents must show risk of homelessness or housing instability, including past due utility bills or rent notices.
At least one member of the household must have been either unemployed for 90 days since March 20, 2020 or show a reduction in household income, have additional significant costs or proof of a financial hardship.
Applications can be submitted by a renter or landlord, but must be agreed to by the tenant and landlord or utility to be paid directly through the program.
Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, who represents Hempstead and Uniondale, said her district was among the hardest hit by the pandemic in deaths and financial insecurity.
"I think of so many families who have battled the pandemic and lost so many loved ones," Goosby said. "It doesn’t matter what party you’re from. We made sure people are fed and can pay rent and have a place to live."