A class action seeks an injunction barring the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance from refusing to accept new applications for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
A proposed class action seeks an injunction barring the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) from refusing to accept new applications for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
The 17-page lawsuit says although New York State is likely to receive from the federal government an additional $960 million, the OTDA nevertheless “prematurely and abruptly” stopped accepting new ERAP applications on November 15, 2022. The complaint argues that closing the ERAP program to new applicants before all potential sources of funding have been exhausted is a violation of the OTDA’s responsibilities under the ERAP statute.
“Respondent’s actions, moreover, violated the Legislature’s clearly expressed intent of protecting eligible families from being evicted while they are waiting for federal funds to be fully distributed,” the case alleges.
Per the lawsuit, ERAP, since its creation in June 2021, has paid $1.13 billion in owed rent for more than 90,000 families, and approved an additional $924 million to pay the arrears of nearly 74,000 additional families whose landlords have yet to complete the paperwork needed for the release of the payments. Despite this, however, 591,000 families in New York remain behind on rent and face the threat of eviction when the state’s moratorium expires on January 15, 2022.
The lawsuit says that although the ERAP statute protects those with pending applications once New York’s moratorium on evictions expires on January 15, the OTDA’s “wrongful actions” will leave families who otherwise could have applied for relief vulnerable to eviction “even though federal funds may not yet have been fully allocated, much less distributed.”
The case goes on to argue that New York will likely be eligible to apply in March 2022 for reallocation of unspent Emergency Rental Assistance program funds made available through The America Rescue Plan Act of 2021, whereby Congress made available an additional $21.55 billion in funding.
According to the lawsuit, more than 591,000 tenants in New York currently owe rent to their landlords, and are eligible for ERAP, but are precluded from applying due to the state’s closure of the program.
The lawsuit was filed by four plaintiffs along with Housing Court Answers, a group that provides legal information on a pro se basis to litigants in New York City’s Housing Courts, and the Coalition for the Homeless, a non-profit advocacy and direct services organization. The plaintiffs stress that the permanent closure of the ERAP portal could have a disastrous effect for many on the brink of eviction.
“If the ERAP portal is not reopened, potentially hundreds of thousands of tenants will become subject to eviction and homelessness after the expiration of the State eviction moratorium on January 15, 2022,” the suit says. “Such a surge in the number of homeless individuals and families would put an enormous strain on all of the Coalition’s programs and services.”
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