ALBANY (TNS) — The newest addition to New York’s COVID-era rental assistance funds, which began accepting applications Thursday, includes landlords whose non-paying tenants have already moved on.

Many landlords were left out of previous rounds of funding due to requirements that tenants also participate in the process. On Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced this update and the allocation of an additional $125 million for the landlords-only program, which will clear arrears without tenant participation.

”There are still many small landlords ineligible for ... relief because of federal rules who also need our help,” she said. “This funding is a critical tool to close that gap.”

Many tenants across the state racked up arrears due to pandemic hardships and rushed to apply for state assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which began accepting applications on June 1. Others have either not completed their part of the process, or have vacated their former residences before paying back thousands of dollars they owe.

ERAP was the second statewide program designed to clear rental arrears since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The first, known as the Rent Relief Program and run by Homes and Community Renewal, kicked off in the summer of 2020 with funds from the federal CARES Act.

In spite of the programs, Debbie Pusatere, a landlord with about 80 functioning units in the area who serves as president of the New York Capital Region Apartment Association, said she had a lot of tenants “jump ship” during the pandemic.

She thinks many left out of fear of never being able to pay their increasing bills. Only a third of those who fell behind on payments still live in her units, in spite of a heavily publicized statewide eviction moratorium. To recover funds for the remaining two thirds, she plans to apply to the new state program.

”For many months, we have begged for this,” said Pusatere, noting how lobbyists for the Under One Roof coalition which includes her organization pushed lawmakers for the change. “When they first talked about funding, we appreciated the fact that we were going to get rental assistance, however the majority of arrears that a number of us have are people that have moved out.”

The latest injection of funds, which will be administered by OTDA as the Landlord Rental Assistance Program, will cut out the role of tenants in instances where they either declined to complete an ERAP application or vacated their former residence with arrears pending.

State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, chair of the Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development, said the latest addition demonstrates the state’s “comprehensive” approach.

”It’s especially important that property owners whose tenants may have left their apartments after months of not being able to pay their rent will now be eligible for payments, ensuring that unpaid rent debts from this period will not continue to burden either the landlord or the tenant,” he said.

State Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican who has also been vocal about his concern for landlords, took a less enthusiastic stance.

”While this is welcome news, it’s too little assistance and may be too late for many ‘mom and pop’ small business property owners who are struggling to pay their bills,” Tedisco said.

© 2021 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) Visit the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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