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Millions Of Dollars Of Rental Assistance Still To Be Distributed To Onondaga County Landlords

Euclid House Rental
Katie Zilcosky
Houses available for rent on Euclid Ave. in Syracuse.

Onondaga County’s Rent Relief Program has received about 7,500 applications since April. Only about 1,500 have been processed, and the waiting list is long. The County’s Department of Social Services has about 4,000 applications waiting to be processed, and it will likely take until the end of the year to get them all processed and paid-out to landlords. Commissioner of Social Services Sarah Merrick says her full-time staff of 10, plus another 10 to 15 part-timers, are working at a rapid pace.

About $1 million in rent payments are paid-out weekly. It’s not as fast as Merrick would like. However, she says programs funded by taxpayer dollars are required to be checked thoroughly.

“I really feel for the landlords who are owed this money and they need to pay their taxes and everything…and they’re frustrated on how slow this is,” said Merrick.

She says due to some overlapping of paperwork, the true number applications they’ve received is around 5,500, and they’ve processed 30%

“Because the tenant has to be eligible for us to issue money to the landlord and then we have to get documentation from the landlord to be able to process a payment. And each step just takes time,” said Merrick.

As of this week $7.7 million of the nearly $26 million in payments have been paid to landlords in Onondaga County. On Thursday, Merrick feared time was running out.

“The U.S. Treasury money only allows us to pay twelve months of rental arrears. So unfortunately the pandemic is going on more than a year,” said Merrick. “So if the state does pass an extension of the moratorium, I’m really hopeful that that additional aide will be available to us.”

Merrick’s wish came true, as Governor Kathy Hochul signed a new moratorium that provides additional protections for residential tenants experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic and new protections for commercial evictions. The new moratorium will also extend protections through January 15th under the State’s Safe Harbor Act. For COVID related rent assistance visit the county’s website.