The COVID Rent Relief Program (“RRP”) held by Community Land Trust (“CLT”) and the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) concluded on July 26th, 2020 with an application drive in Chinatown. During the term of outreach, the program received over 125 voicemails and online form submissions. On the day of the drive, 25 volunteers aided over 100 walk-in applicants who had been screened for qualification.
The application drive held on July 26th at the Florentine School was expeditiously put together in five days, to accommodate the quickly approaching application deadline of July 30th*, by AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee and COVID Student Task Force. Most notably, attorneys May Wong, Angela Wu, William Lee, and law students Dianna Lam, Olympia Moy, Xinyi Shen, and Meng Zhang were the driving factors of the event’s success. To the volunteers, it was imperative to host an in-person event to help the community. “Many Chinatown residents cannot go on Zoom, some don’t even have online access, and, even with online access, some may not find the forms because of language difficulties,” noted Moy. The volunteers have spent tireless hours in organizing the logistics for the event, training for and then evaluating RRP applications of the community, and then following up with intakes for those who are eligible applicants. “One of the most memorable parts of our [RRP], despite all the hurdles we had to navigate through, was how much all the volunteers cared to help our community,” says Lam. Lam add: “All the volunteers patiently and calmly explained to the tenants all their options, any risks they might bear submitting their information, and sat through with each applicant until the application was either fully complete or until the tenants accepted that they did not qualify.”
AABANY again thanks all the volunteers mentioned above, as well as May Mok and Sherman Ngan of AM 1380 & AM 1480 and Jacky Wong, for advertising and covering the event; Samantha Sumilang who provided rent relief training to volunteers over Zoom the day before; Jonathan Hernandez for being on standby for any last minute needs; the APALSA COVID Student Task Force for reaching out to their members for volunteer recruiting; and all other attorney, CLT, and community volunteers who made the event possible.
The RRP was introduced on July 16th, 2020 and first administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The purpose of the RRP is to distribute a $100 million fund amongst the low-income families of New York who have suffered income loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to keep their families in their homes. The $100 million fund was provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27th, 2020. The RRP declares that a household is eligible for assistance as long as at least one member in the household has U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status. All adult household members, regardless of their income earning position, are to be listed on the application form to be considered, including household members with ineligible immigration status. This is a potential grave risk to undocumented immigrants since the federal government could get their information through the RRP. As such, it should be noted that by applying for rent relief, applicants bear the risk of being or having undocumented family members deported.
“The drive’s success is a true testament of our selflessness, passion, and commitment to giving back as a community. We find comfort knowing that our locals are better positioned to receive rent relief,” said Lee.
For additional coverage in Chinese, please see the article written by World Journal here.
*As of July 31st, 2020, the application deadline has been extended to August 6th, 2020.