Bill proposing $100M in rental assistance scheduled for Monday vote in state Senate

A bill that would provide $100 million in rental assistance to tenants across the state has been posted for a vote in the state Senate on Monday.

The 2020 New Jersey Emergency Rental Assistance Program is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) as well as Sens. Brian Stack (D-Jersey City) and Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa).

The bill, a copy of which was seen by ROI-NJ, establishes a temporary emergency rental assistance program for residential tenants who have suffered an income loss due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The program would pay certain amounts of rent due for tenants who are at least 30 days past due on a rent payment, unable to pay rent without assistance and have suffered a demonstrable loss in income due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The bill specifies that funding for the $100 million should come first from assistance provided from the federal government — with the remaining amounts appropriated from the state.

The bill is not scheduled to be voted on in the General Assembly on Monday.

Here’s how the program would work, according to the bill.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, in her role as the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, would run the program along the lines of the Homeless Prevention Program — with two significant changes:

  • The bill will allow the state to provide rental assistance to tenants before they face eviction;
  • The bill will allow the state to provide rental assistance to tenants of medium income (in addition to tenants of low and moderate incomes).

Medium income refers to people and households with greater than 80% of the area median income and up to 120% of AMI.

The bill directs the DCA to distribute an amount of program funds for each county and applicant based, in part, on the fair market rents in each county, according to the most recent fair market rents published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under the bill, the commissioner would provide funds to each HPP agency to be used exclusively for providing emergency rental assistance payments for eligible tenants.  However, for the purposes of this program, the bill authorizes the commissioner to designate an additional agency or agencies to process applications and disburse emergency rental assistance payments in more populated, and more densely populated, counties.

The bill also directs the Commissioner of Community Affairs to:

  • Expeditiously seek federal government approval for a substantial action plan amendment to reallocate uncommitted, unexpended Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds to the program;
  • Identify amounts of federal government assistance provided to the state with regard to COVID-19, which may be available for the purposes of this program and allocate those amounts to this program.

The bill would take effect immediately and would expire upon the completion of processing of all applications for assistance submitted on or prior to the 90th day following the end of the eviction moratorium ordered by Gov. Phil Murphy.

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