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Cuomo Vows To Fix Sluggish Rent Relief Rollout With New Processes

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo presents his Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget in Albany.

New York's multibillion-dollar rent relief program is getting a revamp after widespread criticism that it has failed to quickly get the funds out to the people who need it the most.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that a new application process would be implemented, which would relax the heavily criticized documentation standards for tenants and landlords seeking funds. He said there are now 1,000 people working on the program, and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance — which is overseeing the rollout — will have an extra 350 workers joining the effort from other state agencies.

Cuomo’s office said nearly 5,000 pending cases will be reviewed and verified by Aug. 3. By the end of next month, the state said the office will have paid out to all pending applications that have received approval.

Despite receiving $2.6B in federal funds for the relief and having $100M in state dollars set aside, New York has been one of the worst states in the nation to get money out to property owners and renters. ​​None of the money had been paid out by the end of June, The New York Times reported this week.

"The COVID pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on New Yorkers all across the State, and they need rental assistance now," Cuomo said. "The $2.7B Rental Assistance Program is already providing funding to some of our most vulnerable residents who were prioritized during the first 30 days of the application process, and now we must focus on delivering funds to the remaining applicants. To streamline this process, I've directed OTDA to work with their vendor to disburse payments as quickly and efficiently as possible [so] we can deliver billions of dollars in rental assistance to New Yorkers who have been struggling to pay rent due to no fault of their own."

The funding pays for as much as a year of unpaid rent and three months of future rent payments for eligible tenants. Landlords and tenants alike can apply — the program doesn't mandate that landlords accept the money, but those who do take the funds can't evict the qualifying tenant for 12 months, except in some circumstances.

Both landlords and housing advocates have slammed the program, saying that it relies on a glitchy, complicated online system and is poorly run. Some have described it as a race against the eviction moratorium, with the federal ban on evictions due to end at the end of the month, and New York's moratorium due to end on Aug. 31.