(Jimmy Jordan / WRFI)
ITHACA, NY -- New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP, has got problems.
That’s the finding of New York's Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli.
ERAP is a $2.7 billion fund to help eligible New York renters and landlords avoid financial ruin as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of New York’s ERAP fund has come from federal pandemic relief packages. Households can apply for funding to make up for rental debt and utility payments. Applications require participation and documents from both landlords and tenants. While an application is being reviewed, tenants are exempt from being evicted.
ERAP applications opened up on June 1st, but between that opening day and July 30th just 168,321 applications have come in. That’s less than 15 percent of ERAP eligible households in New York City alone, but only 7,072 of those applications have been processed. No applications were processed throughout the entire month of June. Federal guidelines dictate that if states fail to distribute at least 65 percent of ERAP funds by September 30th, then they must send the remainder back to Washington.
The Comptroller’s Office reported that all New York’s ineffective ERAP rollout lands on the head of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, or OTDA. Outreach and processing the applications have been OTDA’s responsibility. The Comptroller’s Office has bluntly dubbed the program “poorly managed.”
The Comptroller's office has strong criticism specifically for the OTDA’s monthly reports on ERAP applicants; the reports don't contain detailed geographic or socioeconomic data on applicants. These reports also don’t indicate the number of applicants that have been processed on a county level.
According to OTDA, Tompkins County is home to 369 households that have applied for ERAP, and Schuyler County is home to 43 applicants. More information on the demographics of could give local officials and communities better insight into the vulnerable populations in each county, and also the populations eligible for ERAP but unable to navigate the bureaucracy that is supposed to help them meet their needs.
Dinapoli is suggesting OTDA improve their outreach, work with community-based organizations and local governments, and monitor the program in real time to better connect New York State residents with rental assistance.
Assistance applying for ERAP in Schuyler County can be found through Catholic Charities of Chemung and Schuyler Counties. ERAP assistance in Tompkins County can be found through the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County.