Political Odds & Ends, Dec. 29, 2021


Hochul Announces Availability of $90 Million in Fed Emergency Homes Heating Aid

Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced yesterday a substantial year-over-year increase in available emergency home heating aid—with more than $90 million in federal funding available to help low- and middle-income New Yorkers avoid having their home heating disconnected or exhausting their heating source amid fuel price increases this winter. 

Administered by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Home Energy Assistance Program will begin accepting emergency benefit applications starting Monday, January 3, for those New Yorkers who have already used up their regular benefit and who are now facing a heating emergency.

“With the arrival of frigid winter weather and surging fuel prices, we must do everything in our power to safeguard vulnerable New Yorkers struggling to keep their heat on,” said Hochul. “This significant increase in available emergency home heating aid represents a lifeline for tens of thousands of families. It will help them heat their homes, prevent overdue bills from piling up, and avoid the incredible stress and anxiety that can overwhelm anyone facing a heating emergency.”   

To be eligible for the emergency benefit, an income-qualifying household must be facing a heating utility shutoff, or electric utility service disconnection if it is necessary to operate the primary heating equipment. Also qualified for the benefit are those households that have exhausted their heating fuel supply or have less than one-quarter tank of oil, kerosene, or propane; or have less than a 10-day supply of other heating fuels.

Applications for assistance are accepted at local departments of social services in person or by telephone, with funding provided on a first-come, first-served basis. A list of local offices by county can be found here. New York City residents may download an application and obtain program information here.

Walker, Bailey Bill for Affordable Housing Corporation Grant Gets Gov Signature

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker
State Sen. Jamaal T. Bailey

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn) and State Sen. Jamaal T. Bailey (D-Bronx) announced this week that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law their significant legislation to increase funding for affordable housing construction and expand homeownership opportunities for New Yorkers. 

The legislation increases the subsidy availability for affordable homeownership and rehabilitation developments through the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC), New York’s sole subsidy for the development of affordable homes that enable low- and moderate-income families to build equity. 

Despite dramatic increases in the cost of construction over the past 30 years, the per-home allocation for affordable homeownership projects has not significantly increased since AHC’s establishment in 1985. Funding levels for rental housing has vastly outpaced homeownership programs, which has further exacerbated racial and economic disparities in homeownership through the state. 

This bill will raise the grant amount for the construction and rehabilitation of permanent affordable housing from $40,000 per dwelling unit to $75,000/du in high-cost markets like Albany and New York City. It will also require that projects accessing increased funds require permanent affordability restrictions to promote the development of stable and affordable housing in high-need communities.

“Affordable homeownership is one of the most transformative tools for lifting up families and making the American Dream attainable for communities that have for far too long been shut out of homeownership opportunities,” said Bailey. “This legislation marks a historic expansion of the affordable housing program and critical investment in our communities, and will advance fair housing by addressing one of the biggest obstacles to homeownership for low-income families and families of color in the Bronx, Mount Vernon, and throughout New York State.”

“Access to Affordable Homeownership stabilizes and preserves communities. This legislation will be implemented to assist New Yorkers, regardless of their socioeconomic status, in purchasing their first home,” said Walker.

Gianaris, Mamdani Legislation Allowing Greater Access to Government Becomes Law

Senator Michael Gianaris
Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) and Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani (D-Queens) announced yesterday that Gov. Kathy Hochul had signed their legislation, (S.155), requiring state agencies to make the rulemaking process more accessible. 

The Senate passed this legislation as part of “Sunshine Week,” an annual effort to advocate for greater transparency in government. 

“The covid-19 pandemic taught us the crucial importance of transparency in government,” said Gianaris. “We should live up to our progressive ideals and make our government truly accessible to the people it serves. I am glad Governor Hochul shares this belief and signed this legislation.” 

“State agencies should be accountable to us but have historically gathered too little input from the public, and done so ineffectively,” said Mamdani. “I am proud that this legislation will implement new ways to allow the public’s voices to be heard in the decision-making process – to help democracy live up to its name.”  

The Astoria lawmakers’ legislation creates a 3-year pilot program of six major state agencies – Education, Environmental Conservation, Health, Financial Services, Labor, and Family Assistance – requiring these agencies to hold public hearings anytime they are petitioned by residents. Several other states, including California, Arizona, Idaho, New Hampshire, Illinois, and Utah, have similar requirements for agencies to hold hearings.  

Lander Presses For Scaled up COVID School Testing 

Comptroller-elect Brad Lander.

Comptroller-Elect Brad Lander renewed his call from last week for providing and requiring tests to all students and teachers before the return from winter break, as well as doubling testing and returning to testing vaccinated students and teachers. 

Lander’s renewed call follows yesterday’s announcement from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mayor-Elect Eric Adams of a plan to double randomized testing in schools and provide rapid tests to people exposed to the virus in the classroom.

“Scaling up testing in our schools is essential to keeping students, teachers and our communities safe. I’m glad to see a start in that direction,” said Lander. “But as Omicron spreads rapidly in our city, requiring and providing tests before students, teachers and staff go back to classrooms would go a long way to slowing this outbreak. And we should be requiring families to opt-out of testing, rather than opt-in. 

“Otherwise, we’ll still only be testing a very small percentage of students, and leaving far too much opportunity for infections to accelerate through our communities.”