Greenport plans to join state-run utility arrears program for those impacted by pandemic

The Village of Greenport plans to join the New York State Emergency Rental Arrears Program, announced by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance on Nov. 16.

Trustees approved a resolution authorizing the village treasurer to sign an agreement between the village and the OTDA to receive payments from the state on behalf of customers with unpaid utilities accrued on or after March 13, 2020. 

“This particular program, as I understand it, is federal money that was allocated to the state to deal with rental arrears and utility arrears. The significant part for us is the utility arrears,” said Paul Pallas, village administrator at Greenport. “We didn’t join as a vendor, that designation is just part of the OTDA system. There’s nothing crazy about it, it just means that we’re eligible for reimbursement for arrears through that program. That’s essentially, in a nutshell, what that whole program is.”

The program only just started, he added, emphasizing that it’s specifically geared towards pandemic-related arrears. The village took training to learn how to fill out the forms in order to get reimbursement. 

“We will be sending out information, I believe, through the utility billing system to let people know that these programs are available,” Mr. Pallas said. “My understanding of the ERAP process is that the customer applies through the system and requests confirmation from us before sending funds to us.  As I mentioned, this is a new system that is not fully operational as of today and things may change.”

A municipal utility agreement stipulates that customers receiving ERAP Utility Arrears payments will not be treated “adversely due to receipt of such assistance,” nor discriminated against “in costs of goods supplied or services provided.”

ERAP provides aid to low and moderate-income households at risk of homelessness or housing instability through rental arrears, temporary rental assistance and utility arrears assistance.