by LAURA SMITH
ROCHESTER, NY--The City of Rochester and Monroe County announced plans Thursday to provide financial assistance to renters struggling with ongoing financial hardship due to COVID-19.
The Eviction Prevention Initiative, known as EPPI 2.0, will cover up to 12 months back rent if tenants in Monroe County meet certain financial criteria. The program will also cover up to 3 months future rent for those facing extreme hardship.
Local officials estimate approximately 25% of renters in Monroe County are behind with rent.
And with a statewide eviction moratorium set to expire on May 1st, City Commissioner Gary Kirkmire says urgent action is needed.
"We know there is a lot of [evictions] cases already pending court to reopen in May," Kirkmire said during a virtual community forum Thursday.
"Our number one goal is to try to get to that population before May 1st... not only to lighten the court situation but also provide that relief that both tenants and landlords are in need of."
The initiative follows a first pilot known as EPPI 1.0 which ran for four months last year. That pilot provided rent assistance to almost 2 thousand Monroe County residents and paid over $5 million to cover rent.
EPPI 2.0 differs from the first pilot in that landlords will also be able to make the application for funds, as long as they have their tenants' consent.
Many of the questions raised by those attending the virtual community update related to logistics around ensuring that landlords had the right information from tenants to apply.
Beginning April 1st, applications for EPPI 2.0 funding can be made by calling 211 for an initial screening on eligibility.
A network of 13 local not-for-profits will then help applicants complete the paperwork required and release the funds. The county will be announcing the names of the agencies as well as specific application support for domestic violence survivors and for those who speak a language other than English in early April.
The initiative is expected to last through the remainder of this calendar year.
New York State will be providing additional rent support through a state wide Emergency Rent Assistance Program which is due to be rolled out at the end of April.
LAURA SMITH is a volunteer reporter for Reclaiming the Narrative. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.