Crain's NY Business: State Extends Coronavirus Rent Relief Program by One Week

Originally published in Crain's New York Business on July 31, 2020.

On July 31, 2020, Eddie Small of Crain's covered the week-long extension provided by the New York Homes and Community Renewal for the Covid Rent Relief Program application period. The program will provide rent subsidies to some of New York's renters with the highest need, and the extension will help ensure that more renters with low incomes have an opportunity to apply. The full text of this story is below; the original version is available via the link above.
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State extends coronavirus rent relief program by one week

By Eddie Small
July 31, 2020

New Yorkers struggling to make rent payments because of the pandemic will have another week to apply for financial relief from the state.

The application period for the Division of Homes and Community Renewal’s Covid-19 Rent Relief Program was set to expire July 30 after launching July 16, but it will now be open through Aug. 6, the agency announced Friday. The move comes in the wake of a campaign from multiple housing advocacy groups calling for the state to extend the program.

“The Legislature designed the Covid Rent Relief Program to help New Yorkers who are the most at-risk and rent-burdened after losing income due to the pandemic,” HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said in a statement. “By keeping the online portal open for another week, we can make sure everyone who needs to apply for assistance has the opportunity to do so.”

The program provides renters with a one-time subsidy for up to four months’ worth of financial assistance that goes directly to their landlord. Eligible tenants must earn less than 80% of area median income, spend more than 30% of their monthly income on rent and have lost money due to the pandemic.

Housing advocacy groups had called on the state to extend the application deadline until at least Aug. 28 and criticized the rent program for not being accessible enough to the public. Renters were struggling in particular with technology and language issues, according to members of the Housing Justice for All coalition.

Although the one-week extension is appreciated, it is not nearly long enough, said Juan Nuñez, a tenant leader with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. 

“This flawed landlord-bailout program requires more outreach and time to help our communities apply,” Nuñez said. “Once again, this can all be avoided if they simply canceled rent, but instead they choose to force our communities to apply for a program most can’t even qualify for.”

HCR stressed that renters can download and mail in applications in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian-Creole, Korean and Bengali, although the online application is available only in English and Spanish.

State Sen. Brian Kavanagh had been advocating for Albany to extend the application period for its rent program as well. HCR likely will need to reassess next week whether it should extend the application period further, but the agency has to focus on getting the checks out as well, he said.

“The bottom line is that 14 days was a very tight period,” Kavanagh said, “and so HCR is doing the right thing by extending it at least a week.”

Updated to reflect comments from Nuñez.