N.J. Legislators Pass $100 Million COVID-19 Rent Relief Bill

New Jersey State House
New Jersey State House. Photo via visitnj.org.

Help could soon be on the way for tenants struggling to pay their landlords amid coronavirus job losses, as a fully approved relief bill will now head to Governor Murphy’s desk for possible signature.

Last month, New Jersey’s State Senate unanimously advanced the 2020 New Jersey Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The purpose of the endeavor was to create a fund of $100 million to assist residential tenants who have experienced financial setbacks in satisfying their rental obligations.

New Jersey’s State Assembly discussed the proposal during a quorum held by their Housing Committee on May 4. After making a few modifications to the Senate’s legislation, they approved the bill on May 14.

Under changes the Assembly made to the legislation, the program would first be paid for with unspent grant money from Hurricane Sandy relief programs. Federal dollars from the coronavirus relief bill would be utilized beyond that, with the remaining amount coming from the state’s general fund.

The program would operate under the New Jersey Homeless Prevention Program and the Commissioner of Community would administer this fund in accordance with existing regulations. To qualify for assistance, renters would have 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 doesn’t 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. The bill allows the Department of Community Affairs Commissioner to give priority to low and moderate-income residents.

Governor Phil Murphy has not yet commented on the legislation but if he signs it into law, it would take effect immediately.

UPDATE: Governor Murphy has signed the bill into law and New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs has created an information page about the program here. Further details on how to apply for relief will be announced on June 15th and applications will be taken in July. Applicants who are accepted are set to begin receiving rental assistance in September.


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