July 15, 2020 By Allie Griffin
New Yorkers who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of coronavirus-related layoffs or pay cuts can apply for a rental relief grant starting tomorrow.
The state has launched a “COVID Rent Relief Program” that provides a one-time payment of rental assistance directly to people’s landlord. The application opens Thursday at 9 a.m. and is open for two weeks.
Applicants, who must make no more than 80 percent of the area median income to be eligible, can apply for up to four months of rental assistance.
The grants will cover the difference between the 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 rent payments if they have already paid April through July. They do not need to pay the money back to the state.
Applicants must meet a number of requirements to be eligible for the rental assistance program.
They must have earned no more than 80 percent of the area median income when adjusted for household size prior to March 1 and at the time of application.
They must also have been paying more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income towards rent prior to March 1 and at the time of application. Gross income includes cash grants, child support, social security and unemployment benefits in addition to wages.
Lastly, applicants must have lost income during the period of April 1 through July 31. This could be due to job loss, a cut in salary or a cut in hours.
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.
The state expects to send the grant payments to landlords by the end of the summer.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, who represents several neighborhoods in central Queens, has been calling for rent relief for months and called the new grant program “a first step forward to solving a major issue.”
“Nobody in our state should be kicked out of their homes due to the coronavirus,” Meng said in a statement.
“I thank the Governor for establishing this program and look forward to doing more to help additional New Yorkers who have been forced to endure this severe financial burden through no fault of their own.”