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Albany Officials Press For Release Of Emergency Rental Assistance Funding

Dave Lucas / WAMC
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Councilor Owusu Anane and County Executive Dan McCoy outside OTDA headquarters on North Pearl Street.

Elected officials are putting the pressure on the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to release more than $2 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding.

New York's Emergency Rental Assistance Program is funded by $2.2 billion in federal pandemic relief money. Set up as part of the state budget in April, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance was tasked with running the program, which began accepting applications online in June.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, and Albany 10th Ward Councilmember Owusu Anane gathered outside OTDA headquarters on North Pearl Street Tuesday. McCoy, a Democrat, called on the agency to act now.

"And when we talk about the moratorium on eviction, we wouldn't even be talking about this, if this $2.2 billion, got out to the landlords. And today, this is all that's got out in New York State: $40 million."

McCoy is urging landlords and tenants to work together and apply for funding now.

"The sad part is, less than 51 days, and Senator Schumer said this, we lose the money in New York State. So OTDA, get off your butt and do your job. Because you know what, in 51 days we lose $2.2 billion because you're not getting the money out to the people that need it."

Sheehan, also a Democrat, says delays have frustrated officials, forcing them to consider alternative funding sources.

"We've received funding under the rescue plan, the county, the city. We've been working with the county to plan for how we're going to spend that funding. We never intended to spend the $80 million that came to the city of Albany for a plan that was already funded with $2.2 billion. And it will be to the detriment of the residents of city of Albany, if that's what we have to do, tap into that funding to replace the funding that was lost. Our landlords need relief. Tenants need to know that they're going to have a place to live."

Anane says city residents are in dire need of emergency assistance.

"This is not a time to have federal dollars sit in the bank collecting interest, this is a time to make sure that government is helping individuals help themselves."

Again, Sheehan: "We're here with two messages. One, we need the state to put this on hyperdrive. Everyone who is capable of getting this money processed and out needs to be here, getting this money processed and out. And we want our residents to know, it is no joke, the clock is running out. I do not want you to have that shock 18 months from now, of seeing that your wages are being garnished, because you didn't pay rent. It's not that rent was suspended forever, right? It was suspended temporarily. You still have a legal obligation to your landlord for whatever rent was not paid. And that obligation will follow you. There's money there to help. Please don't ignore it. Don't sweep it under the rug. Go on to the county website, fill out the paperwork, work with your landlord, even if you're no longer in the building, protect yourselves, your family and your future."

Testifying before a state Assembly hearing on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program Tuesday, OTDA Commissioner Mike Hein said "ERAP has made approximately $100 million in payments to participating landlords and that number is ramping up every single day. Additionally, we have shielded over 158,000 tenants from eviction, for non-payment of rent during the COVID-related period."