New York State In-depth

State rent relief applications will close on Jan. 20

New York State will no longer be accepting federal rent relief applications as of 9 p.m. Friday, January 20.

COVID-era aid has been exhausted in many parts of the state, but aid is still available in the cities of Huntington and North Hempstead, as well as in less populous communities that have access to Nassau and Suffolk counties funds, the state said. These funds may be exhausted as the state processes applications already submitted. If they don’t, municipalities can provide rent rebates, and if money is left, they may be able to use the funds for housing stabilization services, other affordable housing activities, or to prevent evictions, according to the US Treasury Department.

The federal rent relief covers rent for low-income tenants who have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic. Payments are made directly to landlords and can include up to 12 months of overdue rent and three months of pending rent.

Most municipalities have their share of the federal funds administered by the State Office for Time and Aid for the Disabled in order to keep the administrative burden as low as possible. The towns of Hempstead, Islip and Oyster Bay have chosen to distribute aid independently and are unaffected by the closure of the state portal.

OTDA has provided about $94 million for rental and utility assistance in Long Island communities working with the state on rent relief, the agency said Wednesday.

“We have clearly delivered for the people of New York and protected hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from evictions during the pandemic,” OTDA Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz said in a statement. “This program has overwhelmingly benefited some of our most vulnerable communities, with nearly nine out of 10 payments being made on behalf of households at or below 50 percent of the region’s median income.”

The City of North Hempstead has about $2.2 million left, OTDA said Wednesday. Nassau County has about $1.3 million left in aid funds. Suffolk County’s approximately $4.2 million can be used in the five eastern cities and Smithtown, OTDA and the county said.

“We received official notification today (Wednesday) of the closure of the portal and are working to determine the next steps in relation to funding,” Suffolk spokeswoman Marykate Giulfoyle said in a statement.

The city of Huntington has about $2.3 million left over that it received from the state after the city drained its federal funds, said Timothy Francis, deputy director of the Huntington Community Development Agency. He expects all of the money will be spent while the state processes about 185 applications pending in the city.

Tenants in communities with or near depleted funds can still buy time by applying for assistance. In many court cases for non-payment of rent, tenants who apply to the program will have their cases frozen while their records are reviewed, according to Jericho attorney Bradley Schnur, who represents tenants and landlords. The state will not reject applicants just because the region is running out of money.

Sarina Trangle covers affordability and the cost of living, as well as other business topics. She previously worked as an editor and reporter at amNewYork.

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