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Challenges Persist For New York Tenants, Despite End To Emergency Rental Assistance Program

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Legal experts are worried the end of New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program will create a crisis for many of the state’s still-struggling tenants. Governor Kathy Hochul announced the end of the program last month. Lawyers who work with tenants at Legal Services of New York said thousands of families behind on rent will face evictions – even though they qualified for the benefits. Jack Newton is Director of Public Benefits at Bronx Legal Services. Many that were left behind, he finds, are those that need it most.

“Among the people who didn’t get help are people who didn’t have internet access, who didn’t have technology needed to take a picture of their documents and then upload it. People whose primary language is other than English had more difficulties navigating all the different resources.”

The problem might come to a head for many individuals and families that have had trouble paying rent during the pandemic. Newton notes the eviction moratorium is set to expire next month.

“There’s going to be an enormous burden put on our housing court process almost overnight to push forward warrants of eviction, and to start forcing people out of their homes. I wish I saw a different future, but I just don’t see how that’s going to happen,” he said.

Legal Services of New York and other groups are asking the state to re-open the portal for people to sign up for the ERAP benefits again. Newton adds around one billion dollars of rental assistance is committed to case sunder review – some of which could be freed up to help others.

“That should free up hundreds of thousands, if not substantially more than that. And then of course, I know the Governor has requested $996 million from the federal government,” said Newton.

Those funds could help additional families that have not secured rental benefits. But Newton warns of another potential crisis; many of the same families are far behind on utility payments – and a separate moratorium that protected them runs out just before Christmas.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.