ITHACA, N.Y. –– Many Ithacans have been out of work for over a month leaving tenants across the city and throughout New York State uncertain about how they’ll pay their rent. New measures handed down from the state and city government is looking to help out those in need.
On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended his moratorium on evictions for another 60 days, temporarily protecting renters who have suffered economic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick also announced plans for an emergency rent relief fund using money from the federal government allocated through the CARES Act.
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security (CARES) Act, additional Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-CV) funding was awarded to the City of Ithaca from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The City has $321,299.20 available from their allocation to fund projects –– $190,000 of which is being used for the rent relief fund. The other $130,000 is being reserved for future projects.
The CARES Act allows for flexibility in CDBG-CV grant spending. The decision to allocate funds to renters was decided during Wednesday night’s Ithaca Common Council meeting.
“The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency has proposed that the City of Ithaca make a preliminary allocation of $190,000 in CDBG-CV funding from the City’s total available CDBG-CV allocation of $320,000 to use for Emergency Rental Assistance for households within the City of Ithaca,” Myrick said on Facebook Thursday.
Households earning 0-60% of Area Median Income (AMI) would be prioritized, with possibility for eligibility up to 80% AMI. If eligible, tenants could have up to three months rent paid through the fund.
“We looked around and said with emergency HUD money, what would be the very best ways to use those funds –– for us it’s preventing homelessness, preventing housing insecurity, keeping people in their homes if they’ve lost income, especially if they were struggling before this,” the mayor said.
Myrick said with the amount of money currently available, around 50 families could be helped.
Additional money could be allocated to this use in the future depending on availability, Myrick added, with about $130,000 in CBDG-CV fund still available. Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) would handle the application and approval process as the sponsor of the project.
“A lot of people are severely rent burdened…the bad news is we don’t have enough money,” Myrick said.
The mayor pointed out that paying 3-months rent will allow just around 50 families to benefit. There are roughly 7,000 rental households in the City of Ithaca.
From the state level, Gov. Cuomo announced during his morning press conference Thursday that he would extend the state’s moratorium on COVID-related residential or commercial evictions for an additional 60 days, until Aug. 20. The Governor also announced the state is banning late payments or fees for missed rent payments during the eviction moratorium, and allowing renters to use their security deposit as payment and repay their security deposit over time.
“The majority of people in the state live paycheck to paycheck, and all of a sudden the paychecks have stopped for these individuals but the rent bill keeps coming in. In March we issued a moratorium on all residential and commercial evictions, and we are going to extend that moratorium until Aug. 20 to provide some relief to those New Yorkers who are struggling,” Cuomo said.
Mayor Myrick said that despite eviction moratoriums, and current CARES funding, the federal government isn’t doing enough for renters.
“They haven’t provided aid to municipalities, but we’re hopeful they will in the next CARES Act,” he said. Likely addressing those who have been outspoken about the need for financial help for renters in the community Myrick said, “I would encourage you to maintain pressure on Congress.”