St. Lawrence County leaders working to help both tenants and landlords
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
CANTON – There is state help for both tenants and landlords who are struggling financially and St. Lawrence County officials are trying to ensure those in need receive it.
Throughout the pandemic, protections were put into place that prevented landlords from removing tenants who couldn’t make payments. While the protections were well intended the program did not provide adequate support to ensure landlords were compensated and with many not receiving payments for more than a year, some legislators worry about what’s to come when the program expires.The legislation places a moratorium on residential evictions until August 31, 2021 for tenants who have endured COVID-related hardship. Tenants must submit a hardship declaration, or a document explaining the source of the hardship, to prevent evictions. Landlords can evict tenants that are creating safety or health hazards for other tenants, and those tenants who do not submit hardship declarations.
At the meeting June 7, St. Lawrence County Legislator Jim Reagen said he’s worried for tenants who may face eviction when the protections end and he’s fearful that landlords who have been unable to collect money may lose their properties to back taxes or let their investments fall into disarray because they aren’t collecting revenue.
Fortunately there is now help available. Legislators agreed to direct state resources and launch an information push to help tenants and landlords get assistance. St. Lawrence County Administrator Ruth Doyle said that’s something staff was already doing, but said the county wants to help as many people as it can.
The state's rental assistance program offers emergency rental assistance for struggling New Yorkers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for the program are being accepted now for eligible New Yorkers who are behind on their rent and have suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19.
Until June 30, the program will prioritize the unemployed, those with income at or below 50 percent of area median income and other vulnerable populations.
After the first 30 days, applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, as long as funds remain available.
Department of Social Services Commissioner Cynthia Ackerman said the program is unique in that the application process involves both the landlords and the tenants and funding goes directly toward the landlords.
She said the department is working closely with the Massena Independent Living Center to provide as much help as possible. So far the county has processed around 50 applications with the majority coming from Massena and Ogdensburg. She says the county will be working to reach out and provide help to those who can’t easily travel or don’t have access to file online on their own.
For those who can travel she said help is available at the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services, 6 Judson Street, Canton.
The applications can be filled out by visiting https://nysrenthelp.otda.ny.gov/en/ . However, those needing additional assistance in navigating the application process can get help by contacting St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services at 315-379-2155 and speaking with Karen Durham. Additionally people may call Courtnie Thoms at MILC at 315-7649442.