Editorial: Hochul should continue funding rent assistance

The New York state government decided to end the Emergency Rental Assistance Program because federal funds are running out. Gov. Kathy Hochul should exhaust state funding while requesting federal assistance to protect the housing insecure.

Gov.+Hochul%E2%80%99s+administration+ended+the+Emergency+Rental+Assistance+Program.+The+state+needs+to+resume+this+program+with+state+funding+until+federal+funding+can+be+secured.+%28Image+via+Wikimedia+Commons%29

Gov. Hochul’s administration ended the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The state needs to resume this program with state funding until federal funding can be secured. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

By WSN Editorial Board

For the past several months, New York has provided rental assistance to state residents struggling during the pandemic. With the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the state government has used federal and state funding to provide much-needed assistance to those who have had trouble paying rent. Although ERAP was supposed to launch much earlier, the portal only began accepting applicants on June 1 of this year. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration decided earlier this month to close the portal to new applicants due to a lack of federal funding despite other states continuing to accept applications while requesting further assistance.

In fact, there is a $250 million pot of state funds that many landlords within the state are eligible for, proving that there is additional funding that could be allocated to residents in need. Hochul made the wrong decision and should continue ERAP as long as state funding lasts.

Hochul and New York state’s congressional delegation have both requested funds from the Department of the Treasury for continuing ERAP; the latter even penned a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in an attempt to expedite the request. This is an explicit acknowledgement of the importance of this program. 

But it’s essential to note that requesting federal assistance and maintaining state-level funding are not mutually exclusive. In fact, California continued to accept rental aid applications from state residents while simultaneously requesting aid from the federal government. This allowed California to continue to provide for residents who are struggling with housing costs while also taking steps to secure funding from the federal government. 

If it shuts down now, this program will have only operated for half a year. It’s also concerning how slow New York state was in distributing housing relief funds after they were allotted. Now, after a slow start, the Hochul administration is shuttering the program indefinitely. They should use up the remaining funds — especially in smaller counties with funds still available — on struggling New Yorkers, who have already waited so long for rental assistance.

Because of the global inflation crisis, the White House projects that housing costs will continue to rise over the next several months. The answer to rising housing costs is not cutting off a vital program that New Yorkers desperately need, but rather continuing it as long as state funds allow while simultaneously requesting another cash infusion.

Closing the ERAP portal will also hurt small property owners. Ann Korchak, a member of the Small Property Owners of New York, told The New York Times that prematurely closing the ERAP application portal would be an unnecessary setback for landlords. Hochul’s decision comes at the expense of people who sell housing as well as those who seek it.

More than 830,000 households in New York state are behind on rent. Working households are depending on this government program, and although funds are running out, there’s no reason why New York state and Gov. Hochul cannot continue ERAP and simultaneously request federal funds from the Biden administration. 

Though an end to the pandemic is in sight, the burdens incurred during the pandemic will negatively impact families for years to come. As long as the financial scars of the pandemic remain, the state government must continue providing assistance to New Yorkers in need.

A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 22, 2021, e-print edition. Contact the Editorial Board at [email protected]