While noting that’s an important goal, advocates said they’re also worried about the lack of more granular data about where applications for the program are coming from. Ellen Davidson, staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, said they’ve asked OTDA to release zip code and income-level data on tenants who’ve applied for the program to determine whether outreach efforts have worked and who’s being left out.
“When any of these programs are created, oftentimes you see the highest income, most educated people applying before the most vulnerable,” she said. “Sometimes it takes unconventional outreach, directed outreach to make sure that everyone knows about the application.”
Nohemi Rojas, 36, said she benefited from that kind of outreach. Although it took three attempts (she said she was missing documents), last month, she submitted her application, with the help from the group Make the Road New York. She and her husband lost their jobs during the pandemic and couldn’t pay rent and utility bills for their apartment in Elmhurst, Queens, for six months. They accumulated nearly $14,000 in missed payments. Now, she said, all she can do is wait to see if her application gets approved.
“I feel happy and suspenseful at the same time,” she said.