The Citywide Task Force on Housing Court, which gives free advice to defendants in Housing Court, will receive an additional $125,000–double its current state grant–to deal with anti-tenant components in the new rent laws.
The increase in funding, slipped into this year’s budget package by Assembly Democrats, will provide modest relief for tenants dealing with major new pro-landlord elements of state law. Under the changes, tenants must file their appeals five days after their case is resolved and deposit rent into escrow accounts just to have their cases heard.
The Citywide Task Force is made up of six staffers–one to man information tables for each borough court and Executive Director Angelita Anderson. The staffers spend their days informing tenants of their rights. Half of the nonprofit’s budget comes from the state and half is raised independently.
The new grant comes at a time when the task force is facing financial troubles, attributable to the state’s inability to deliver grant checks on time. The organization hasn’t received any state money–new or old–for five months. According to board member Larry Wood, the group’s operating funds have been coming from the pockets of board members and friends.
While regular staffers have been paid, Anderson–though she still works full time–was reported as “partially” laid off, so she could get some unemployment insurance. The new state money is expected to arrive soon, though board members could not say when. And despite the recent coffers crisis, the task force is planning to expand to meet the needs of the new law, which takes effect October 18. Wood said that the Task Force plans to hire one extra staffer per borough.