New York, California, New Jersey & Illinois send letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen highlighting what they call ‘critical need for funding’
√ More than 85,000 applications for rental assistance remain unfunded in New York
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday announced New York is joining California and New Jersey in calling on the federal government to prioritize additional rental relief funding for high tenant states that have exhausted their initial federal allocation. Hochul, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker sent a joint letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, imploring the department to reexamine its methodology for reallocating rent relief funds in order to get assistance to states where the demand and urgency for relief is the greatest.
"From the start of my administration, I pledged to deliver relief to struggling tenants and landlords who were still recovering from the pandemic," Hochul said, "Since then, we've issued more than $1.3 billion in rent relief out the door, made $100 million in rent supplements available, signed an increase in rental voucher amounts into law, invested $25 million for free legal services for tenants, and unveiled a number of bold, achievable proposals to address systemic housing needs. However, the harsh reality is that there are still too many New Yorkers in need of housing assistance. We were disappointed in the amount of additional rental relief funds available from the U.S. Treasury to be reallocated to New York, and given that our Emergency Rental Assistance Program portal already reopened this week, I am asking the Treasury to revisit its process. It is crucial that we not give struggling tenants and landlords false hope for long-awaited financial relief when – without federal intervention – there is no funding to support them, and I thank California, New Jersey and Illinois for joining us in this important effort."
Murphy said, "The pandemic has created financial challenges for many across our state and nation, but no one should have to choose between paying for the roof over their head or putting food on the table. Additional federal funding will allow us to continue supporting hardworking New Jersey families during these challenging times."
In requesting the additional funding, the states stressed an immediate need to accelerate the redistribution of the estimated $18 billion in unused emergency funding to help keep families stabilized and housed amid the recent surge of COVID-19. The governors indicated that the methodology for allocating the rent relief to states was based on state population totals, which do not take into consideration the number of low-income renters in each state.
Read the full letter.
New York has issued more than $1.3 billion in rent relief, totaling more than 104,000 payments to landlords. In total, the state has obligated all $2 billion in available funding, covering roughly 161,000 applications and leaving roughly 85,000 unfunded.
A press release stated, “Despite the funding shortfall, the state was legally compelled to fully reopen its application portal last week following a court injunction. Without additional funding to support the already existing backlog of applications, the state is at risk of giving struggling New Yorkers false hope for critical financial relief that simply doesn't exist without federal intervention.”
After taking office in late August, Hochul worked to streamline and accelerate the state's Emergency Rental Assistance Program. New York either obligated or distributed more than $2 billion in rental assistance before exhausting its federal allocation in November – less than six months after opening the program.
Under Hochul's direction, the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance subsequently requested $996 million in reallocation funds from the Treasury, which would have funded tens of thousands of additional applicants. Yet late last month, the Treasury indicated New York would receive $27 million from its initial reallocation – less than 3% of the state's request, and enough to fund approximately 1,960 applications.
OTDA Acting Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz said, "The governor's timely appeal to the Treasury represents our continued and vigorous advocacy for tenants and landlords still reeling from the financial impact of the pandemic. Absent these additional funds, we face the bleak prospect of not being able to grant the rent relief requests of tens of thousands of struggling New Yorkers who are trying to make ends meet amid this ongoing global health crisis. I applaud Gov. Hochul's leadership and initiative to work with other states to help the Treasury recognize the overwhelming and immediate need for additional funding."