This week is an important one for households struggling to pay their landlords amid coronavirus job losses, as the state has officially opened enrollment for a $100 million endeavor designed to help pay past due rent.
Back in May, Governor Murphy signed a bill dubbed the 2020 New Jersey Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Its purpose was to create a fund to assist residential tenants who have experienced financial setbacks during COVID-19 in satisfying their rental obligations.
The program is being paid for first with unspent grant money from Hurricane Sandy relief programs. Federal dollars from the coronavirus relief bill will be utilized beyond that, with the remaining amount coming from the state’s general fund.
The New Jersey Homeless Prevention Program and the Commissioner of Community is administering the fund in accordance with existing regulations and to qualify for assistance, renters need to prove that they are unable to make rental payments for reasons that are “beyond the household’s control” and related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
A renter does not need to have been served with a summons or eviction complaint to be eligible but would need to have a current annual income that is no greater than the upper limit of “medium income.” That threshold varies depending on what part of New Jersey an applicant lives in, but qualified tenants cannot make more than 120% of their county’s median family income as defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
If a renter’s application is approved, a Homelessness Prevention Program Agency would need to verify with the landlord the amount of rent due and the state would then pay the landlord directly. Renters would still be responsible for paying 30% of their monthly rent and need to be current on their lease payments as of March 1, 2020, to qualify for the aid.
The state began accepting applicants into the program on July 6 and further details about qualifying requirements can be found here. Interested parties can apply for relief here over the next two weeks, with enrollment in the program ending at 5 p.m. on July 17.
The state will then initiate a lottery drawing to determine the applicants that will receive aid, which could last up to maximum of six months. The rental aid payments are slated to begin in September and all participants in the program will need to be reviewed at the three-month interval to see if they are still in need of assistance.