Late State Budget Freezes New York $ 2.3 Billion Federal Aid for Tenants and Homeowners | Local News


ALBANY – Unlocking New York’s $ 2.3 billion federal aid for tenants and small landlords struggling to pay rent or property taxes during the coronavirus pandemic rests on state leaders who negotiate the budget late throughout the weekend.

Lawmakers had not planned to debate or vote on legislation related to the 2021-22 budget over the weekend and planned to observe the Easter holidays on Sunday. Officials said many officials left the city on Friday afternoon and did not expect to push forward the state’s next spending plan until next week.

State officials have waited to release a plan and instructions for New York to distribute its total of $ 2.3 billion in federal COVID-19 rent relief to tenants and small landlords.

Other states, including Texas, New Jersey, Connecticut and California, have announced the process and procedure for tenants and landlords to apply for relief and advance financing.

“Here in New York, we haven’t got our process in place at all,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said Wednesday outside the Million Dollar Staircase in Albany. “Why the hell would we include this or make this budget negotiations hostage?” If we cared the least about small business owners, we would take that money away. We are going to put this process in place. … This is taxpayer money – taxpayer money that homeowners put in their federal taxes and it should come back to them. The Governor (Cuomo) can just call (Calif. Gov.) Gavin Newsom and ask what they did.

New York must spend at least 5% of its $ 1.3 billion in federal CARES rent assistance relief, or $ 65 million, by September 30. The state will receive an additional $ 1 billion as part of the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout package recently passed by Congress.

The remainder of the $ 1.3 billion will be returned to the federal government if the state has not distributed the $ 65 million in rent assistance by the end of September.

Republican state leaders called attention to the ongoing issue at a joint press conference at the State Capitol this week.

“It should be easy,” Ortt said. “All we have to do is put the process in place for them, tenants and landlords, to ask for this money so that we can take it out.

“We’ve heard everything about ‘write off the rent’, (and) ‘we have to write off the rent’,” he added. “We have to relieve our tenants. “

In December, state Republicans were widely opposed and voted against extending the moratorium on state evictions until May 1.

The state division of houses and community renewal spent $ 40 million on an initial first round of $ 100 million. About 90,000 applicants did not receive assistance.

The state is forecasting an estimated variance of $ 2.2 billion in past rents and similar expenses.

“The Office of Temporary Help and Persons with Disabilities is working with its partners in the state legislature to develop a rent relief program that meets both federal requirements and the housing needs of New Yorkers.” said Justin Mason, spokesperson for the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Handicap assistance. “We are working with national and local authorities to lay the foundation for this nearly $ 2.3 billion program. We are developing a program that will support households in financial difficulty and in arrears of rent or at risk of housing insecurity, with priority given to the poorest households and unemployed people. “

Mason deferred all the other questions to his declaration.

The division spent about $ 40 million of the $ 100 million of the state’s $ 5 billion in funding last year’s CARES Act to help about 15,000 candidates in the first round of its law. 2020 on emergency evictions and foreclosure prevention, which the legislature passed in December to block eviction proceedings until May 1.

State Budget Division spokesman Freeman Klopott referred to Mason’s statement and did not respond to repeated questions about how much of the $ 2.3 billion relief went been moved or spent to date, the conditions for tenants or owners to be eligible for funding or when decisions will be made. .

Klopott has said several times this week that budget negotiations are ongoing, but would not respond to further details on the topic or the nature of the talks.

About 42% of small homeowners use personal loans or savings to pay mortgages, property taxes or bills, said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay R-Pulaski.

“Unfortunately, what we do too often here in Albany is we drag our feet and haven’t released these funds,” Barclay said, adding concerns about allocation delays.

“It’s about doing what’s right. What have we been waiting for? Time is really of the essence.

Officials say details of tenants and small landlords claiming relief and the state handing out federal aid depend on the state budget being passed.

The state’s 2021-22 fiscal year began at midnight on Thursday with one of 10 traditional budget bills passed by the legislature. Three of the bills were released on Saturday at press time.

State comptroller Tom DiNapoli said about 39,000 state employees would see their salaries delayed if the legislature did not pass a budget by Monday.

“We have worked day and night on the budget and fully expect funding to be available for state workers to be paid,” Klopott said in a statement.

The state budget is finalized through a series of multi-hour closed-door discussions with key leaders and legislative staff, including Governor Andrew Cuomo; Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie, D-Bronx; and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers.

Republican leaders blamed Democrats for failing to pass a budget on time, proposing to raise taxes for New York’s millionaires and billionaires and one-party legislative control of the state.

At the Republicans’ joint press conference on Wednesday, Senator Pam Helming, R-Geneva, recalled asking the Senate why $ 60 million was not spent in the first round of distribution of rent assistance.

“At that time, we had over 100,000 people looking for help, and we got help in the hands of 15,000,” Helming said. “Now we’re talking about a lot more funding. The governor and the majority have had ample time to put in place a plan to spend this money more effectively. “

Candidates will see relief in midsummer now, at the earliest, Helming said.

“… If these owners go bankrupt, we risk losing the critical housing stock that we desperately need,” she said. “Sept. 30 – the deadline is approaching. It’s much closer than you think. It would be a crime to have to send this money back to Washington, DC “

Ortt said the federal government may not want to provide funding to New York in the future if the state does not use its designated relief by the deadline.

“We might as well give it to people ourselves,” he said. “This is the competence of the state government. It should be easy. We’re talking about a budget of over $ 200 billion, raising taxes, increasing spending to levels never seen before, but we can’t seem to talk about just putting money in between. hands of the people – tenants and small business owners who need it more than ever.

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