Aug. 30, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The Democratic congressmembers who represent several districts in New York City are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to extend the state’s eviction moratorium that is set to expire Tuesday.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose district covers eastern Brooklyn and a portion of southern Queens, penned a letter to Hochul Saturday urging her to extend the state eviction moratorium after the U.S. Supreme Court shot down the federal version last week.
A dozen congressmembers representing New York districts co-signed the letter, including Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Ritchie Torres, Carolyn Maloney, Mondaire Jones, Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng, Adriano Espaillat, Yvette Clarke, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Kathleen Rice and Jerry Nadler.
They urge Hochul to extend the moratorium as many New Yorkers are still unemployed and struggling to pay rent. To make matters more urgent, approximately 750,000 city residents are expected to lose all unemployment benefits after Labor Day.
The legislators argue that an extension would provide struggling tenants with more time to tap into the state’s $2.7 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), a government fund that was set up to help New Yorkers cover their overdue rent.
The letter notes that New York State has the highest share of renter households in the United States–at 46 percent —with 63 percent of those households located in New York City.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment, and Governor Hochul should use her authority to ensure that no one is evicted while we work together to improve the rental assistance process for everyday New Yorkers,” Jeffries said in a statement.
Tenants have not been utilizing the rental assistance program. Only around 10 percent of potentially eligible renters have submitted applications, according to the state comptroller’s office.
“An extension of the eviction moratorium would allow for the hundreds of thousands of eligible households to apply for ERAP and receive payments to bring them up to date on their rent while keeping them in their homes,” Jeffries and his colleagues wrote.
Tenants who apply to the program do have some protection after the moratorium ends. Renters who apply will have their eviction case paused until their application is approved or rejected — and if they are approved for the program, they cannot be evicted for a year.
The state has been slow to distribute the rental assistance funds — covered mainly by federal pandemic relief money — into the hands of residents and their landlords.
“While New York was awarded one of the largest amounts of ERAP funding at over $2 billion, it was one of the slowest states to start making payments,” the legislators wrote.
The state has only distributed $203 million from the program to date, according to the most recent data
The Congress members said they were concerned over the delays in getting the money out to those in need of rental assistance.
“We remain concerned with the litany of problems regarding the roll out and execution of ERAP
in New York,” they wrote. “The state needs to address our concerns including the lack of outreach to potentially eligible households and the delays both for processing applications and making payments under the program.”
They said there was no time, however, to fix the issues before New Yorkers could be kicked out of their homes after the moratorium expires on Aug. 31.
“Accordingly, an extension of the eviction moratorium is the only way to ensure this program can both work as intended and keep families in their homes,” they said in the letter.
The state moratorium, however, has also been challenged in court. The Supreme Court declared that a key provision of the eviction moratorium was unconstitutional earlier this month.
The court ruled that the form tenants submit to self-certify that they had experienced economic hardship due to the pandemic violated due process.
We joined the New York delegation to urge Gov. Hochul to extend the NY eviction ban. This would protect families while the State resolves the delay in issuing rent relief. NY landlords & renters are eligible for $2B in aid – the state has distributed just several hundred million. pic.twitter.com/gDhk5dFwfl
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) August 30, 2021