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Mid-March 2022 News and Updates

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)

MVUT continues to assist tenants who have fallen behind in rent due to either a loss of income, or an increase in expenses due to Covid-19. As of this writing we’ve helped submit over 250 ERAP applications and assisted in another nearly 200 cases with uploading various documents in their ERAP applications. Despite news to the contrary, we’re still processing ERAP applications.  lf you know of tenants who you think may be eligible for ERAP assistance, have them call Andrew Aguilar at (914) 699-1114 Extension 304.

Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP)

Great news from the State legislature as both the Senate and the Assembly increased funding for the NPP in their respective “one house” bills, from $12.8 million to $14.5 million! The NPP is MVUTs largest funding source and provides us with a large portion of our operative expenses.  We’d ask that our members and friends call their respective Senator and Assemblymember and thank them for their support for increased funding for the NPP, and for their continued support in negotiations with the governor in the final bill. To find further information and notify your Senator and Assemblymember you can go to the Neiehborhood Preservation Coalition’s (NPC) website at NPCNYS.ORG/advocacv/contact-your-legislator   For Mt Vernon tenants your State legislators are Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (914) 667-0127 and Senator Jamaal Bowman (718) 547-8854. CALL TODAY !

Ending of Pandemic

We’re hopeful that the Covid-19 pandemic may be winding down. The pandemic seriously impacted our programs at MVUT. Prior to the pandemic, MVUT would host monthly General Membership meetings in our office at 7:0opm on the first Tuesday of each month.  At those monthly membership meetings we’d go over problems that individual tenants were experiencing, building-wide issues affecting tenants, policy issues MVUT is dealing with and announcements of upcoming events regarding housing and issues impacting low-to moderate income residents. We’d like to try to re-start our monthly general Membership Meetings on April 5. We’ll sending an announcement specifically regarding this meeting, but please mark your calendars and try to attend. Depending upon attendance and participation, we’ll decide whether to continue “in-person” meetings at this time.

Another issue that the pandemic severely impacted and limited was our building organizing. “Organizing the Unorganized” has always been a hallmark of our program delivery services. We’ve always felt that an
organized and educated tenancy is the best defense against landlord abuse and official neglect. It’s of paramount importance for all tenants to know their rights, how to utilize them and what steps to take to satisfy their objectives.  Through our building organizing, we assist tenants within buildings to learn their rights and form effective Building Associations to improve their conditions, lessen landlord harassment and possibly reduce their rent. Similar to the General Membership meetings in our office, tenants for the most part have not wanted to meet, even within buildings, during the pandemic. We’re hopeful that as we start to leave the pandemic behind, that we can get back to scheduling Building organizing meetings to address some of the growing needs that tenants are facing.  Please call the office at (914) 699-1 114 if you’d like to schedule a meeting in your building.

Right to Counsel (RTC)

MVUT has been working on getting a “Right To Counsel” bill on both the county and state levels. We encourage our members and friends to support both campaigns by calling your respective county and state legislators and lobbying them to support the respective bills.  Under the Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP) piece above, we provide contact information about the state legislators. On the county level Mt. Vernon Tenants should call Tyrae Woodson-Samuels (914) 995-2837.  For others, you should call the League of Women Voters (914) 949-0507 to find out who your County Legislator is. On the State level MVUT has helped secure co-sponsorship by virtually all of the Westchester Legislative Delegation on the statewide Right to Counsel bill (S6678A/A7570B). We’re enclosing a one-page Fact Sheet of ‘The potential benefits and estimated cost of an eviction Right to Counsel outside of New York City.” Feel free to copy this Fact Sheet and get it to others in your building, or if your need more call the MVUT office at (914 )699-1114.

On the reverse side of the “Right to Counsel” Fact Sheet we’ve copied a February 22,2022 Journal News Article ‘Rents in U.S. Reach Insane Levels.”‘ We certainly agree!!!

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Please support MVUT with a generous contribution at this time. Thank you.

I appreciate all of the valuable work MVUT is doing for tenants!!  I’m enclosing my donation of $25 / $50 / $100 / $200 / Other

Name:
Address:
Telephone:

Email:

Mail to: Mt. Vernon United Tenants, P.O.Box 2107, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551

SUPPORT TENANTS’ RIGHTS!
SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING I !
SUPPORT MVUT!!!

Download MVUT Mid March 2022 Mailing (PDF)

The Potential Benefits and Estimated Cost of an Eviction Right to Counsel Outside of New York City

FACT SHEET:  The Potential Benefits and Estimated Cost of an Eviction Right to Counsel Outside of New York City

Statewide Right to Counsel (S.6678A/A7570B) ) strengthens Right to Counsel in New York City and guarantees the right to a free lawyer to ALL tenants facing eviction across New York State.  To estimate the total cost of a statewide Right to Counsel, we worked with Stout to produce an analysis of the cost associated with providing free legal representation for tenants outside New York City. Combining the outside New york City cost estimate with an updated cost estimate for an expanded Right to Counsel in New York City gets us to the total statewide cost- Our estimated minimum total cost of providing Right to Counsel to tenants statewide is on our website at https://www.righttocounselnyc.org/statewidertccost

Once enacted into law, statewide Right to Counsel will be phased over seyeral years. The benefits and cost of Right to Counsel outside New York City included in this fact sheet would happen at full implementation. For the complete cost analysis and more research on the benefits of Right to Counsel outside New York City, read the full report at: bit.ly/RTCCostStudyOutsideNYC 

BENEFITS

Approximately 46,600 tenant households outside New York City would receive legal representation under a statewide eviction Right to Counsel.

Approximately 97% of tenants who appear in eviction court would benefit from Right to Counsel. With dedicated funding to community organizing and outreach, the percentage of tenants that accept free legal representation will likely be closer to 100%.

Right to Counsel makes it harder for landlords to use evictions as a tactic to harass and displace tenants. Implementations of a statewide eviction Right to Counsel could decrease eviction filings outside New York City by at least 19% (over 5 years at an annual decline of 5%, starting in year 2). Eviction filings may decrease more (such as in New York City where they dropped by 30%, or less depending on the effectiveness of implementation and the state’s commitment to tenant organizing and outreach about the Right to Counsel.

When a tenant doesn’t appear in court, the judge can issue a default judgment, which allows the court to issue an eviction warrant. A statewide eviction Right to Counsel would reduce the number of default judgments outside New York City, with an expected 32% decline in default rates.

lmplementing a statewide eviction Right to Counsel would likely save New York state and local governments millions of public dollars (over and above the cost of providing the Right) that would otherwise be spent on shelter, emergency room costs, homelessness services, and more. Like most cities and states with an eviction Right to Counsel, New York State could see cost savings of $3 – $6 per dollar invested in Right to Counsel.  For example, Stout estimated that Baltimore could save $3.06 per dollar and the state of Maryland could see cost savings of $6.24 per dollar (Baltimore City plus Maryland), from the same investment in an eviction Right to Counsel.

COST

$144 million – $20o million is the estimated cost of providing an eviction Right to counsel to ALL tenants (with no income restrictions) outside New York City.

MORE THAN $16M IN EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE FUNDING ISSUED IN WESTCHESTER

Cross-posted from WestchesterGov.com

MORE THAN $16M IN EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE FUNDING ISSUED IN WESTCHESTER

Vital financial aid to cover back rent and utilities

for eligible Westchester County residents and landlords

New York State also launches separate $125M program to assist landlords

 

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY (Oct. 14, 2021) – Emergency financial relief is flowing to county residents who applied for the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which covers rent and utility arrears to Westchester households at risk of eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than $16 million has been issued directly to landlords and utility companies on behalf of 1,140 tenant households in Westchester County.

New York State also has launched a separate $125 million program for landlords who were unable to apply for ERAP due to a federal requirement that allowed only tenants to apply. The new Landlord Rental Assistance Program (LRAP) is providing up to 12 months of past-due rent to eligible landlords whose tenants either applied for ERAP and were denied, declined to complete an ERAP application or vacated the residence with arrears. The program is being administered by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. For information, visit otda.ny.gov/lrap.

One county resident who has gotten assistance is Rohey Mbenga, of Elmsford, who applied for ERAP assistance in June and was recently notified that more than $33,000 will be issued to her landlord. The assistance was welcome news to the single mother of three, who lost her job at Lord & Taylor in Eastchester when the retailer shut its doors earlier this year. “I was so worried. I couldn’t sleep,” said Mbenga, noting the struggles of finding employment during the pandemic. “I didn’t know what to do. You don’t want to end up in the street, especially if you have kids.”

When Mbenga learned about the program she contacted Mount Vernon United Tenants, one of 13 local nonprofits partnering with Westchester County to assist individuals seeking to apply for ERAP. “The staff was very helpful. They assisted with the application and helped me file online,” Mbenga said, adding she recently landed a new job, at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry.

“We’re so encouraged to see our local residents getting the critical financial assistance they need to cover their rents and utilities so families can stay together in their homes,” said Dennis Hanratty, Executive Director of Mount Vernon United Tenants, a community-based organization that advocates for tenant rights.

“Our staff has been counseling residents and assisting them with applications, so we’re seeing first-hand the value of this program to tenants and to landlords. Knowing there is help for families impacted by the pandemic will be of great reassurance to Westchester renters,” Hanratty added.

The ERAP program has received more than 4,100 applications from Westchester County residents. Applications from eligible residents are still being processed, on a first-come, first-served basis, and residents are urged to apply quickly while funding is still available. In addition, New York State has expanded the household-income eligibility for rental assistance from 80 percent to 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), which, for a household of four in the county, is $153,000. The funding comes as New York State’s eviction moratorium has been extended to Jan. 15, 2022.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “The response we are seeing clearly shows the need for this federal funding for our most vulnerable residents who have suffered financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage all eligible households at risk of housing instability to reach out to our nonprofit partners and get the help you need.”

HELP IS AVAILABLE FOR ASSISTANCE WITH APPLICATIONS

Applicants can call United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s 2-1-1 hotline with questions and to find a nonprofit partner in their community. Rental counseling is available, in English and Spanish, with guidance for gathering documents and access to computers to complete the application online. If you’ve applied and want a status update on your application, call the New York State Office for Temporary and Disability Assistance help line at 844-NY1RENT (844-691-7368).

Click here to Apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

ERAP is providing financial assistance for up to 12 months of past-due rent, 3 months of future rent and 12 months of utility arrears payments to eligible tenants, regardless of immigration status. Payments are being made directly to the eligible tenant’s landlord or property owner, and utility company. Westchester is assisting applicants throughout the county, except in Yonkers, where tenants and landlords are working directly with the municipality and its nonprofit partners.

Commissioner of the Department of Planning Norma Drummond said: “We are so pleased to see this funding getting to our tenants and landlords who have been struggling to manage through these difficult times. If you are at risk of housing instability and think you are eligible for this funding, we encourage you to apply right away.”

New York State residents are eligible for ERAP if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Household gross income is at or below 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). These income limits differ by county and household size. A household may qualify based on current income or calendar year 2020 income that is at or below 120 percent AMI.
  • On or after March 13, 2020, a member of the household received unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs or experienced financial hardship, directly or indirectly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The applicant is obligated to pay rent at their primary residence and has rental arrears (rent overdue) at their current residence for rent owed on or after March 13, 2020.
  • The household must be at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, which can be demonstrated by having rental arrears owed on or after March 13, 2020.

The New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program is being funded by $2.6 billion in federal aid. For information and to find a nonprofit partner to help you apply, visit Westchester County’s Housing Help page. Yonkers residents may visit yonkersny.gov to learn about their unique application process.

The Westchester County Department of Planning conducts a comprehensive work program and shapes and influences growth and development in Westchester County in order to improve quality of life and protect the environment, resulting in more livable and sustainable communities. For information, visit https://planning.westchestergov.com/.

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Media Contact:

Caryn McBride

Co-Communications

cmcbride [at] cocommunications.com

Download News Release (PDF)