In January 2023, Yonkers officials announced the end of the COVID Rent Relief Program, a local initiative started in May 2021 to provide assistance to tenants impacted by the pandemic. According to the Yonkers government website, the purpose of the initiative was to:
“Provide eligible households with a one-time rental subsidy that will be sent directly to the household’s landlord. Applicants will not need to repay this assistance. […] HCR will prioritize eligible households with ‘greatest economic and social need’ accounting for income, rent burden, percent of income lost and risk of homelessness.”
Over the course of 20 months, the program paid out $14.5M in support to 853 tenants in Yonkers–with the allocated funds going directly to their landlords or utilities providers. Thousands of individuals and families were financially impacted by the pandemic, with many locals unable to meet their housing needs. This unprecedented need resulted in more than 1,000 applications to the program.
Yonkers’ COVID Rent Relief Program was a local version of the broader state-wide initiative that saw $2.7B distributed to more than 220,000 tenants. In a statement, Mayor Mike Spano addressed the need for an assistance program at the municipal level. City officials reasoned that local agencies would be able to distribute targeted funds more quickly than the state.
“More than anyone, we know how to best serve our local tenants and landlords and connect them to our local non-profits who are the ‘boots on the ground’ with those in need,” Mayor Spano said.
Local non-profit organizations involved in the initiative included CLUSTER Community Services, Westchester Residential Opportunities, The Bridge Fund of Westchester, Inc., Westhab, and Catholic Charities.
The COVID Rent Relief Program was financed by Yonkers’ $87M federal pandemic relief fund. The program’s two rounds of funding saw up to 15 months of rent paid for applicants in the first round, and 18 months in the second. From lost income to additional financial hardships, the pandemic has severe financial impacts for many households in Yonkers and across the country.
Although the program has ended, it was deemed a success–with more than 850 tenants receiving rental relief.