Following in the footsteps of Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca voted last night to establish a fund which will help people struggling economically from the COVID-19 outbreak to pay their rents.
The city will allocate $190,000 to the fund, which will allow support for 50 households for three months. The structure is similar to what Tompkins County passed two weeks ago, in that it takes state funds previously awarded through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and repurposes them to rent relief. The move requires state approval, though the state has shown willingness municipalities to repurpose funds for rent help during the public health crisis.
In the City of Ithaca, the funds will be made first available to renter households earning 0-60 percent of AMI and less than $5,000 in liquid assets before other CDBG eligible renter households are considered. Applications will be considered by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, which will also handle "affirmative marketing" to underserved people, such as people who don't speak English as a primary language.
According to the resolution, the city project average total assistance per renter household to be $3,700. There are other stipulations that will be in place for the money to be distributed to tenants, such as proof of adverse COVID-19 impact, rent against current income ratio have to be above 31 percent, landlords must sign a form that requires them to accept rent, waive late fees, not evict tenants for non-payment and avoid code violations. Buildings must also pass environmental requirements for CDBG funding, tenant must not pay any portion of the rent (in order to build savings), and the tenant must have an income less than 80 percent of area median income and less than $5,000 in liquid assets.
Timelines for distribution are not yet clear.
Additionally, Common Council voted 9-1 to approve plans for Verizon to start a build-out of 4G and 5G coverage, the latest technology from wireless companies that is supposed to provide wider access to internet data via cell phones outside of homes. There was significant opposition from the public, based on some pretty questionable internet conspiracy theories that tie 5G coverage to the coronavirus outbreak, among other fear-based objections. New York State Assembly candidate Sujata Gibson published a letter in response to the vote when it happened, stating her hesitation to embrace the plan due to her perception that not enough scientific testing had been conducted to evaluate 5G's impact on the areas that it covers.