TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Starting Monday, June 1, the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program is open for applications for people who need help making ends meet, at least in part because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program is designed to “provide significant economic relief to help low and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability by providing rental arrears, temporary rental assistance and utility arrears assistance.” Locally, people who are applying can call 2-1-1 for help with their application, and New York State Assemblyperson Anna Kelles has said her office can help with applications as well.

To be eligible, applicants must have a household gross income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (see the link for each county’s AMI by household size), a member of the household must have “received unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in income,” has a rent obligation and must be “at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability,” demonstrated by having rent debt after March 13, 2020.

Those households with rental arrears may be eligible for assistance with paying utility arrears. The state lists potential ERAP benefits as 12 months of rental arrears payments for rent debt accumulated after March 13, 2020, up to three months of additional rental assistance if a household is spending 30 percent or more of its monthly income on rent, and up to 12 months of electric or gas utility arrears payments for debts accumulated after March 13, 2020.

Information from New York also states that priority will be given to households with lower incomes, as well as criteria concerning veteran service, domestic violence situations, residence with a small number of dwellings, dealing with unemployment, etc. More information is available at the assistance program’s site, as well as what materials people need to have on-hand while applying for the assistance.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com