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Cuomo, After Criticism, Announces New Rent Relief Application Process

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking at Binghamton University April 27, 2021.
WSKG/Vaughn Golden

Governor Andrew Cuomo is responding to complaints by New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, about the state’s rate of distributing federal rent relief dollars. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, says a new streamlined application process for tenants beginning Tuesday.   Schumer, who is also the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, said over the weekend that the state was in danger of losing the $2.4 billion in federal money due to delays by the Cuomo administration in getting out the rent relief aid.

“We are calling on the State of New York to get the money out to the tenants now,” Schumer said.

Schumer says New York is last among the 50 states in distributing the money, and he wrote a letter to Cuomo asking for changes.  He says if the money does not get distributed to tenants by the end of September, New York might have to forfeit the funds. Applicants have complained the site is plagued by technical glitches. 

Cuomo says a new streamlined application processwill be put in place Tuesday to “help eliminate potential barriers for eligible New Yorkers to receive funding.”

The governor says if the application process has been slow, it’s because his administration wants to make sure that it catches potential cases of fraud.

“You want to make sure you give the money to the people who need it most,” Cuomo said. “And there’s no fraud and there’s no scam.”

The governor did not address criticism of the current application system, but he says the nearly 5,000 cases that are being reviewed will be completed by August 3.

The timing is crucial because a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic ends on August 31, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers owe several months’ worth of back rent.

In a statement, a spokesman for the state agency responsible for distributing the money, says $700,000 in federal rent relief was given out on Monday.  

“Nearly $700,000 in rent relief payments were made today to New Yorkers after opening the program to applications within weeks of enactment in April, and payments are now expected to be provided daily,” said Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance spokesman Anthony Farmer.  

Farmer says the program that was agreed to with the Legislature set an initial 30-day period that prioritized the neediest applicants. He says any tenant who has submitted a complete application, even if they have not yet received the money, are protected from eviction.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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