Renters are protected from being locked out of their home by a statewide eviction moratorium that runs through Dec. 31. (Getty Images)
The state’s biggest rent relief program aimed at helping New Jersey tenants on the brink of financial crisis has helped just 11% of applicants so far, according to the state agency overseeing the fund.
Of the 113,000 struggling renters who applied for the second phase of New Jersey’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, 13,489 households have been awarded funds, according to the state Department of Community Affairs.
As of July, the state distributed $113.9 million of the $353 million set aside for struggling renters, said DCA spokeswoman Lisa Ryan. That means nearly a third of the total funding is out the door.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who also heads the DCA, announced the fund in March as a follow up to the first round of the program, which awarded $100 million to 15,000 households, a fraction of the 60,000 tenants who applied.
At that point, more than 60,000 evictions had been filed in the courts, according to state data. In the four months since, landlords filed another 14,000 evictions. Renters are protected from being locked out of their home by a statewide eviction moratorium that runs through Dec. 31.
Since the start of the pandemic, housing advocates have sounded the alarm about the impending flood of evictions and called for more money for the rental assistance fund. An estimate by progressive think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates nearly 400,000 New Jerseyans are behind on rent.
The DCA is doling out an average of $8,564.94 per applicant to cover past due rent or future payments. Ryan noted the payments are usually sent directly to property owners.
A bill on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk would end the current eviction moratorium for some renters on Aug. 31, and turn all unpaid rent into civil debt, meaning landlords would have to fight for overdue rent money in civil court instead of evicting over nonpayment of rent.
Ryan noted the DCA conducts a rolling lottery system, selecting 10,000 new applicants every other week, and participants are kept in the system even if they don’t win. Applications remain open, and the lotteries are ongoing until all the money is awarded.
She said the Department of Community Affairs expects administrative costs to account for 6% of the fund. The federal government allows up to 10% of the funding award to be used for administration of funds.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.