BUFFALO, N.Y. — If you're having trouble paying your rent or utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is help available if you qualify.
The New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) opened on Tuesday and applications are now being accepted.
The program provides income-qualified renters, who experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic, up to 12 months back rent and up to three months future rent. Utility assistance may also be available in certain cases.
On Wednesday, officials with the City of Buffalo urged residents in need to apply sooner rather than later.
"We want to make sure that Buffalonians are gonna get their fair share with this," said Brendan Mehaffy, the executive director of the City of Buffalo's Office of Strategic Planning. "We are encouraging people to apply early. There are certain priorities just for the month of June. But then after that, it's first come first serve."
New York residents are eligible for ERAP if they meet all of the following criteria:
- Household gross income is at or below 80 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 80 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.
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“Erie County wants to raise awareness of the Emergency Rental Assistance program and ensure safe stable housing for Erie County residents impacted by the COVID19 pandemic,” said Erie County Commissioner of Social Services Marie Cannon.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted our social infrastructure in many ways, including the ability of families to pay their rent,” said Meghan Lutz, Niagara County Social Services Commissioner.
Lutz added, “This isn’t only about helping the renters, but also helping landlords, many of who are small, local operations that cannot pay their own bills and mortgages with so many renters behind."
A call center dedicated to ERAP is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. at 1-844-NY1-RENT or 1-844-691-7368.