ITHACA, N.Y. –– The COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program will launch June 15, offering financial assistance to residents of Tompkins County. Residents can apply for assistance with rent if they have lost income due to COVID-19, and if they fall within household income limits.

Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) is overseeing the program and has provided an online guide with the program application. Residents can apply to receive up to three months of financial assistance if they are eligible. Applicants must provide two months of bank statements, a copy of their current lease, and proof that they lost income due to COVID-19. 

INHS has not traditionally provided rental assistance, but rather has been in the business of providing low-interest loans to first-time home buyers, and building, managing and rehabbing homes for low-income families.

However, because of economic hardship caused by the pandemic, many residents have called for a rent freeze, and in April Ithaca’s Common Council urged state representatives to freeze rent and landlords’ mortgage payments.

“Tompkins County has seen unemployment claims in staggering numbers, and we know that our neighbors need systems that support them, especially when it comes to affordable housing,” Director of the Tompkins County Office of Human Rights Rev. Kenneth Clarke said in a statement.

Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability Katie Borgella added saying, “shifting this funding from home renovation and rehabilitation assistance to address the critical need for rental assistance during these unprecedented times is a creative way to help as many people as we can to weather this crisis,” she said.

Residents are eligible for assistants if their household income is under $47,950 in a household of one person; $54,800 in a household of two people; and $61,650 in a household of three people. 

More information on income limits is available on INHS’s website.

The program is being funded through Community Development Block Grants awarded to Ithaca and Tompkins County by the U.S. Department of Housing to address COVID related needs. The county CDBG grant has $589,222 available to assist approximately 150 households. County funds are being designated to help full-time residents outside of the City of Ithaca only. 

The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency is contributing $190,000 in CDBG funds that can be used to assist approximately 50 households within the City of Ithaca. Additionally, INHS is utilizing $200,000 in New York State HOME funds to assist renters in Seneca, Schuyler, Tioga, and Tompkins Counties.

Assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

This program will launch in Tompkins and Tioga Counties on June 15 and in Schuyler and Seneca Counties on June 8.

Additional information about the application process is available on the INHS website or by calling 607- 277-4500 x201. Paper applications will be available in the next week outside the downtown INHS offices at 115 W Clinton St, Ithaca and can be returned in the rent box outside.

Peter Champelli contributed to this report.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com