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Applications for New York State Rent Relief Program Reopen

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Dec. 22, 2020 By Allie Griffin

New Yorkers who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of coronavirus-related layoffs or pay cuts can now apply for a rental relief grant–once again.

Governor Andrew Cuomo opened applications for the “COVID Rent Relief Program,” which provides a one-time payment of rental assistance directly to a person’s landlord, for a second time last Friday.

He announced earlier this month that the state would reopen the application window and expand the program’s eligibility so more rent relief can be provided to New Yorkers.

The program first opened in mid July and closed after about three weeks. Queens residents received a total of $6,291,940 in subsidies through the first round, with the average subsidy per person equaling $2,561.

The second application period runs from Dec. 18 through Feb. 1 and previous applicants do not need to reapply. The state will re-evaluate all past applications based on the new criteria.

The grants will cover the difference between a households’ rent burden on March 1 and the increase in rent burden for the months the household is applying for assistance.

For example, tenants who were allocating 35 percent of their monthly income toward rent on March 1–and have since lost their jobs– might now be shelling out 50 percent of their monthly income just to cover rent. The grant program will cover the increase to bring tenants back down to paying 35 percent of their monthly income to rent.

The grant program uses March 1 as the baseline marker, since this was the last month most people were able to pay their rent.

Tenants can choose to apply the grant money to missed payments, beginning with April rent, or to future payments. They do not need to pay the money back to the state.

Eligible households with the greatest economic and social need will be prioritized for the rental subsidies.

To be eligible for the program, tenants must meet all of the following criteria —

They must be a renter and have a primary residence in New York State.

They must have lost income sometime from April 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.

Before March 7, 2020, their household income must have been at 80 percent of the area median income in their county or less — adjusted for household size.

They must be “rent burdened” — meaning they are paying more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income for rent — during the months they are applying for assistance.

People who live with roommates can either apply to the grant program alone for just their portion of monthly rent or as a household for the full monthly rent.

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