Eviction moratorium in NYS looms, and only a fraction of funds have been distributed

Posted at 5:14 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 17:56:42-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — More than $100 million in payments have been made to tenants and landlords, according to the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

"We've increased payments form $117,000 to over $100 million in just three weeks," said Miachel Hein, Commissioner of OTDA.

But The Assembly Committees on Housing, Social Services, and Ways and Means said that's nowhere near enough, especially with the end of the eviction moratorium looming.

"You mentioned that $100 million is out the door. That sounds like a lot of money, but to me it's less than four percent of the total," said Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz.

"Two point seven billion dollars need to get out yesterday. It's unacceptable," said Assembly member Michael Lawler.

In a public hearing on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program Tuesday, Commissioner Hein was grilled as to why it took so long for tenants and landlords to receive relief from the $2.6 billion in Federal funding.

"No one here can understand why it has taken so long to get any money out the door," said Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Social Services.

The issue appearing to be with the vendor Guidehouse not being able to handle the amount applications and traffic to the website.

"I think that there was the hope and expectation in working with our vendor that they would be able to move through the backlog themselves. When we saw that that wasn't taking place we wanted to be able to take action," said Hein.

ERAP added 350 employees to help with the backlog as well.

Applicants said they ran into major technical issues with the website - saying it crashes frequently, the option to save and resume was not available, and they were not given an idea of where they were in the application process.

Commissioner Hein said the option to save is available again, and they'll add enhancements so users know where they were in the application process.

The federal government is authorized to reclaim funds if at least 65 percent of the original allocation is not utilized by September 30, 2021.

"I don't know how in God's name you're going to get there. To get to 65 percent when you've only administered 3.7 percent of the program," said Assembly member Lawler.