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St. Lawrence County Courthouse, Canton. Ellis Giacomelli/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators's Finance Committee passed a resolution Monday urging Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul to accelerate the release of Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds to relieve those impacted by COVID-19 eviction restrictions.

The resolution declares that, between March 2020 and August 2021, laws were enacted forbidding landlords from utilizing means to secure rent payments from tenants, or from securing judgments against tenants who failed to pay rent.

The resolution notes that the New York State Legislature enacted a second moratorium on residential evictions, lasting until Jan. 15, 2022, for tenants who endured a COVID-related hardship.

“The extension of the eviction moratorium by statute has resulted in many individual property owners receiving no rental income for more than a year,” the resolution reads.

In response to concerns about the economic effects of COVID-19 on renters and landlords, Congress created a $25 billion ERAP in January, and authorized a second round of ERAP funding, $21.55 billion, which authorized the distribution of money to state and local governments to provide support to delinquent renters and help landlords receive unpaid rent from during the pandemic.

The state undertook the obligation of rolling out the funds through the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance.

By the end of July, according to the resolution, the first round of ERAP funds “showed that less than $5 billion of the $25 billion funding allocated to states and localities had been spent on household rent, utilities, and arrears.”

The rate at which ERAP funds have been dispensed is a cause for concern among county legislators.

“The failure of the State of New York to effectively administer the program in a timely fashion may result in the federal government reclaiming those funds without benefit to New York State tenants and landlords,” the resolution reads. “The Board of Legislators calls upon New York State Governor Kathy Hochul and the Commissioner of the Office of Temporary Disabilities Assistance to expedite the release of Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding to provide relief to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic eviction restrictions and the eviction moratorium.”

“I think it’s critical for the county to add its voice to those who are calling upon the State of New York to address the problem that they’ve created,” said Legislator James E. Reagan, R-Ogdensburg, who co-sponsored the bill. “There are literally thousands of rental units in the county whose owners have not received any rent for over a year; there are utilities companies that are not being paid; there are families that are facing eviction,” he said.

“It is imperative that the State of New York, which created this problem, address this problem by releasing the funds that have been provided to address this problem that the government created,” he added.

The full board will consider the resolution at its next meeting.

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