OPINION

Palmesano blasts Dems' failure to distribute rent relief funds

Staff reports

N.Y. received over $2.6 billion in federal funds to assist landlords and renters, but only about $200 million (7%) has actually been dispersed

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) is calling out the Hochul administration and both Majority conferences of the Legislature for their failure in distributing federally allocated funds designated for financially struggling renters and landlords. New York received over $2.6 billion from the federal government to assist landlords and renters. Of that, only 7%, about $200 million, has actually been dispersed to landlords for their loss of income over the moratorium’s past 17 months. 

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

Palmesano’s office says, “Their abysmal management and failure from not dispersing these funds is now compounded even further by the governor and Legislature’s Democratic majorities extending the eviction moratorium another four and a half months, until Jan. 15, 2022. This action does not fix the problem; it just kicks the can down the road. It will hurt small landlords even further and will create a much larger housing crisis in the future.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters after a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Palmesano himself says, “Extending the eviction moratorium is not only severely harmful to landlords and small property owners, but it’s unnecessary. Since March, my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate Republican conferences and I have urged the administration and our democratic legislative colleagues to release these critical rent relief funds. They knew this expiration date was coming. It is inexcusable that these funds have not been distributed with over six months of time and public pressure to do so. If these funds were responsibly sent out as intended, we would not be in this position of extending this costly eviction moratorium at the expense of small property owners and landlords.

“Small landlords in our area and statewide have been devastated by the failure of ‘one-party rule’ coming out of Albany.  They’ve been hurt financially by this reckless policy. Landlords have been required to continue to provide property maintenance upkeep and housing to tenants for no compensation, at the same time still having to meet their obligation to pay their mortgages, property taxes, and utility bills, even as they essentially provide tenants free housing. Many small landlords have not received rental payments in over 17 months and now will have to wait even longer due to Gov. Hochul and the Assembly and Senate Democrat majorities’ eviction moratorium extension. This eviction moratorium, now extended again through January, has simply crushed these small landlords and property owners financially, many of whom rely on rent payments as their own source of income, retirement security, or even a way to help pay for their kids’ college education. This legislation is simply a one-sided benefit in favor of tenants at the expense of small landlords and it’s just wrong!

“My colleagues in the Majority conference often talk about the importance of fairness, justice and equity. However, I challenge them to explain how extending this moratorium another four and a half months is fair, just or equitable to the thousands of small landlords statewide who have been financially devastated by this moratorium.”

State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) joined Palmesano’s criticisms. 

“Today’s action is taking no action at all. The New York State Democrats are just kicking the can down the road.  The answer and the solution to this housing crisis is not to keep extending an eviction moratorium and canceling rent. The focus and the priority must be on getting vital federal assistance out of the state’s hands and into the hands of those who desperately need it, which means struggling tenants and property owners throughout the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and statewide. The former administration’s management of this vital federal aid was abysmal and it’s unfortunate that the new Hochul administration, with the full and ongoing consent of the Legislature’s Democrat majorities, isn’t turning the page. They are taking no meaningful steps to fix it now.  This so-called ‘extraordinary session’ of the Legislature was just more business-as-usual out of Albany, negotiated behind closed doors, out of the public’s view, and rushed through.”

In recent months, Senate Republicans have held virtual listening sessions with stakeholders from the housing community to prepare for the end of the eviction moratorium this month and put in place immediate, direct actions to alleviate financial pressure on tenants and property owners. 

In early August, the U.S. Supreme Court partially blocked New York’s eviction moratorium. More recently, the court blocked the federal eviction moratorium.