Capitol Notes

Lawmakers eye second rent relief measure with federal aid

When state lawmakers convene for a new legislative session next month, one of their first tasks could be creating a new program to distribute about $1.3 billion in federal rent relief included in the recently enacted pandemic stimulus package.

“I’m very much committed to making sure that that happens,” Sen. Brian Kavanagh, chair of the chamber’s  housing committee, told The Capitol Pressroom.

In the summer, Kavanagh and his counterpart in the state Assembly, Steven Cymbrowitz, put together legislation designed to distribute rent relief allocated in the HEROES Act, which passed the House of Representatives and never moved in the U.S. Senate.

The bill was designed “to spend large amounts of federal money,” a sharp contrast from the emergency rent relief package approved by state lawmakers in May, which only had $100 million to distribute.

“I think this (future) program will be different in many respects than the emergency rent relief act we passed, because it is much broader and that bill was, by design, intended to be quite restrictive because it was such a small amount of money,” Kavanagh said. “When you’re putting $100 million on the table it might 3 percent of the total need, so it was designed to be restrictive so the people who got it were among the most needy.”

“Candidly, it seems that some of the restrictions were too narrow and not enough people have qualified,” he added, noting that Cuomo tweaked the rules to ensure more people would benefit and all the federal funds would be exhausted.

If this latest pool of money is followed by another round of rent relief in a future Biden administration, Kavanagh predicted that the state would be “on our way to really digging our way out of this crisis, both for landlords, and tenants and homeowners.”


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