Advocates Demand Immediate Reforms to the Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program (ERAP)

July 9, 2021

Dear Governor Cuomo:

As community organizations and elected officials representing tenants across New York State, we are writing to demand immediate reforms to the implementation of the statewide Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program (ERAP) that launched on June 1st. 

From day one, the implementation of the Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program (ERAP) has been riddled with numerous flaws that make it harder for tenants to apply for and obtain aid. This failure on the part of your agency, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, undermines New York State’s ability to ensure that $2.7 billion in federal rent relief actually reaches tenants and families hit hardest by COVID.

So far, only xxx New Yorkers have applied for rental assistance, yet an estimated 1.2 million New Yorkers owe back rent because COVID destroyed their jobs and incomes.  It’s clear from what we are seeing and hearing on the ground that many New Yorkers eligible for this emergency rent relief assistance are unable to access it. The online portal for ERAP is too difficult to navigate. ERAP must be fixed quickly so that relief funds are distributed to the more  than  1 million New Yorkers who are saddled with COVID rent debt and desperately need financial help. 

Housing advocates and impacted tenants involved in Housing Justice for All (HJ4A) have identified the following problems related to lack of accessibility, barriers to eligibility, and poor user experience for tenants who try to navigate the ERAP online portal:

Lack of Accessibility:

  • Reliance on “Google Translate” to inaccurately translate the website and landing pages; no translation of “Frequently Asked Questions” and other key parts of the site
  • No paper applications are available
  • Email address is required to apply

Barriers to Eligibility:

  • The definition of “household” is unclear, particularly for sub-lessees and those who live with roommates 
  • It is not clear how tenants could utilize “self-attestation” for required documents in the application process
  • Cooperators are not eligible for the program, despite the fact that there is nothing in the legislation that should bar eligibility

Poor User Experience for Tenants Applying for Rent Relief Online

  • It takes about two hours to fully apply for the program and there is not ability to save the application and return to it later
  • There is no “submit” button, so it is unclear to users if they have adequately applied
  • The website is poorly designed and crashes frequently 

In addition, OTDA has provided no direction to some of the most vulnerable tenants in our State: those who live in accessory dwelling units that are not recognized as homes. In particular, single family homeowners who are at the highest risk of foreclosure are unable to provide adequate documentation to obtain this relief. 

After more than a year of struggling through the pandemic, New York’s renters deserve better. That’s why we urge you and your agencies to immediately correct the problems outlined above and make the following additional changes to ensure the ERAP program is managed and implemented effectively:

  1. OTDA should hold daily briefings to inform the public about ERAP and answer frequently asked questions;
  2. OTDA should set up working groups to address the question of roommates, sublessors, and discrepancy in rent owed between landlords and tenants. These working groups must represent tenant interests. 

More than 1 million New Yorkers will not be able to recover from the COVID pandemic unless they can obtain rental assistance from ERAP. It’s up to you and your administration to ensure these New Yorkers are not left behind.


Members of Housing Justice for All and allies, including: 

  1. Akron Mobile Home Park Tenants Association
  2. Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development
  3. Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition
  4. Broome Street Tenants Alliance
  5. CAAAV
  6. CASA: New Settlement Apartments
  7. Catholic Migration Services
  8. Citizen Action of New York
  9. Citywide Tenant Union – Rochester
  10. Chhaya CDC 
  11. Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc.
  12. Churches United for Fair Housing
  13. Community Service Society
  14. Communities Resist
  15. Community Voices Heard
  16. Cooper Square Committee
  17. Free the People WNY
  18. Goddard Riverside Community Center
  19. Good Ole Lower East Side (GOLES)
  20. Housing Conservation Coordinators
  21. Housing Organizers for People Empowerment (HOPE)
  22. Housing Rights Initiative
  23. Hudson-Catskill Housing Coalition
  24. Make the Road New York 
  25. Met Council on Housing
  26. Neighbors Together
  27. New York City Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA)
  28. New York Communities for Change
  29. New York State Tenants & Neighbors
  30. Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson
  31. Northeast Save the Kids (Buffalo)
  32. Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition
  33. NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives
  34. Partnership for the Public Good
  35. Power, Action, & Light Social Justice Center
  36. PUSH Buffalo
  37. Ridgewood Tenant Union
  38. Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association (RENA)
  39. Southwest Brooklyn Tenant Union
  40. Tenants Political Action Committee
  41. Urban Justice Center-Safety Net Project
  42. VOCAL-NY 
  43. Voces Ciudadanas, Sunset Park
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