After SCOTUS Ends National Eviction Moratorium, Here’s How To Get Rent And Utility Help In NY

The state’s emergency rental aid program is now the main lifeline for New Yorkers struggling to keep their homes after the Supreme Court ruled Thursday a federal eviction moratorium was unlawful.

The unsigned majority decision found that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had overstepped its authority when it extended a eviction moratorium earlier this month to last until the beginning of October in regions with “substantial” or “high levels” of community transmission of COVID-19—including New York City.

The Supreme Court’s decision, which drew the dissent of the three liberal justices, said any new eviction policy should come from Congress.

The previous federal ban on evictions was enacted as unemployment skyrocketed during the pandemic and public health officials sought to minimize household movements during shelter-in-place orders.

The Supreme Court’s decision, which the Associated Press reported could affect “roughly 3.5 million people in the United States who said they faced eviction in the next two months,” has added urgency to a push by some state lawmakers to find ways to reinstate New York’s own eviction moratorium. That, too, was partly blocked by the Supreme Court on grounds that tenants need to show evidence of financial hardship in court and not just through filling out a form.

In a statement Friday, Governor Kathy Hochul pledged to work with legislative leaders to find a policy solution, and urged people to apply for the state’s $2.7 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). People are protected from evictions for up to a year as their ERAP applications are processed.

“I am very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s appalling and insensitive ruling that eliminates a key line of defense for tenants facing housing insecurity during the ongoing pandemic, and we are exploring all options to further protect New Yorkers from eviction, including with the legislative leaders,” Hochul said in the statement Friday.

“It is critical that New Yorkers know that anyone who applies to the rent relief program will automatically be protected from eviction while their application is pending,” Hochul said. “More than $800 million has already been already disbursed or is now ready for landlords to accept on behalf of their tenants. More than $1 billion remains available for relief and resources are available through community organizations to help New Yorkers apply, receive eviction protection, and pay their rent. New Yorkers should complete and submit their applications immediately. This is urgent.”

Hochul followed up her statement with one a few hours later, noting the urgency of the moment and Albany’s responsibility. “I am in talks with the Senate Majority Leader and Assembly Speaker to call a special session to address the impending eviction crisis, given the Supreme Court’s decision. Our teams will be working through the weekend to address how best to deliver relief to renters and homeowners in need as quickly as possible.”

The ERAP is income-restricted; households with income at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI)—$95,450 for a family of four in New York City—can receive up to 12 months of rental and utility arrears payments.

But the ERAP application has been criticized for being onerous to fill out, and badly designed – until a recent fix, the lengthy application couldn’t be saved online and had to be completed in one sitting. The state’s website has also been criticized as difficult to navigate and plagued with tech issues. Critics have also questioned why the funding, which is paid directly to participating landlords, has been slow to disburse.

Hochul pledged this week to move faster on disbursement: “I am not at all satisfied with the pace that this COVID relief is getting out the door,” she said in her inaugural address to New Yorkers Tuesday. “I want the money out—and I want it out now. No more excuses and delays.”

While evictions in New York state can technically now proceed in housing court, there are still some safeguards — the CITY reported that “New York’s Office of Court Administration is also now requiring landlords to notify the courts if their tenant applied for ERAP, if the landlord applied on the tenant’s behalf or if the tenant was approved for the program. There’s a special form that landlords need to fill out here.” Tenants who are facing housing court can also call 311 to speak to a lawyer and have free legal representation under the city’s Right to Counsel.

Hochul has said she will allocate more staff and resources to processing ERAP applications, which advocates say needs to happen quickly.

“Governor Hochul inherited this crisis just one week into her Administration, and we recognize the important actions she has taken,” said Jason Cone, chief policy officer of the anti-poverty nonprofit Robin Hood Foundation in a statement. “However, if we allow thousands of households to be evicted while the State works on improving the roll-out of its program, this additional investment will amount to far too little, and come much too late.”

Despite the flaws, the ERAP remains the best option for struggling renters, said Ellen Davidson, staff attorney for Legal Aid’s Law Reform Unit.

“I don’t think we have much of a choice at this time,” Davidson said. “We can’t give the system and the program an opportunity to fix the problems. The only way that people can be protected is if they apply for the program. So I’m hoping that all of the publicity about what’s happening with losing the moratoriums, we’ll get the information to people that they can and should apply for rent relief.”

How to apply for the state Emergency Rental Assistance Program:

The process to apply for rental assistance starts with the state’s website to set up an account. There are many community-based organizations and social services agencies working with the state to provide internet access and assistance with understanding the process.

Here’s a link to the organizations helping New York City residents navigate the application. The Met Council on Housing tenants’ advocacy group is also operating a Tenants’ Rights Hotline at 212-979-0611. Good Shepherd Services and United Community Centers are hosting an ERAP assistance pop-up event Tuesday Aug. 31st, 12 – 5 p.m., at Prince Joshua Avitto Community Center at 876 Schenck Avenue in Brooklyn.

Renters will need to provide the following documents for the ERAP application:

  • Personal identification for the primary applicant such as a photo ID, driver license, EBT card or school registration.
  • A Social Security number of any household members who have been issued one — applicants do not need to have lawful immigration status to qualify for the program.
  • Proof of rental amount, signed lease — even if the lease is expired. The state said “If no lease is available then proof can be shown through a rent receipt, canceled check or money order. If no documentation is available, landlord attestation will be accepted.”
  • Proof of residency and occupancy such as a “signed lease, rent receipt, utility bill, school records, bank statement, postal mail with name of applicant, insurance bill, or driver license.” These documents need to be current.
  • Proof of residency and occupancy such as a “signed lease, rent receipt, utility bill, school records, bank statement, postal mail with name of applicant, insurance bill, or driver license.” These documents need to be current. W-2 tax form.
  • The state will allow self-attestation through a written and signed statement of income if no documentation is available such as some forms of self-employment.
  • If you’re applying for help with utility arrears, you’ll need a copy of your gas or electric utility bill.
  • If you’re applying for help with utility arrears, you’ll need a copy of your gas or electric utility bill.eived unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experienced other financial hardship, directly or indirectly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Landlords will need to provide the following documents:

  • Documented evidence of tenant’s rent owed through a monthly rent confirmation form or ledger identifying the rental amount due by month.
  • Executed lease with the renter applicant, or a cancelled check, evidence of funds transfer or other documentation of the last full monthly rent payment.
  • Documented evidence of tenant’s rent owed through a monthly rent confirmation form or ledger identifying the rental amount due by month.
  • Direct deposit bank information

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