Supporters of the law say it’s a big step forward for social justice, as securing housing is a key to reducing recidivism. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A program providing rental relief for struggling New Jersey tenants during the coronavirus pandemic will close applications on Dec. 15, the Department of Community Affairs announced.
Since the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program launched in July 2020, more than $500 million has been distributed to residents: $92 million to 15,000 families during the first phase from July 6 to July 17, 2020, and another $421 million to 47,000 families since the second phase started in March 2021.
Low- and middle-income residents who are behind on rental payments should apply online to enter the lottery. People can also call 609-490-4550 to reach a call center staffed with English and Spanish speakers.
The money is not guaranteed, the DCA said, because the demand will exceed the available funding. All applications received before the Dec. 15 deadline will be included “in an effort to fairly distribute the remaining federal funds,” the agency said in a statement.
After the state saw its first coronavirus cases in March 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an order barring landlords from kicking out renters who weren’t making payments. Landlords were still able to file for evictions, and can now sue tenants in civil court to collect missed rent.
Throughout public health crisis, state lawmakers have also moved to enhance protections for New Jersey renters, including making pandemic-era eviction records confidential — to avoid tenants being blacklisted from future housing — and appropriating $500 in American Rescue Plan money to enhance rental assistance.
Households making less than 80% of annual county median income are still protected from being kicked out through Dec. 31, 2021.
Landlords can apply for rental aid on their tenants’ behalf as long as renters sign the application and are notified once the application is submitted. The DCA encourages landlords to agree to reasonable payment plans and advises them they can no longer file for eviction over non-payment of rent.
Applications also remain open until Dec. 15 for the Eviction Protection Program for people making less than 120% of the county’s median income.
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