N.J. to offer $100M rental assistance program

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the administration will be applying at least $100 million for a short-term rental assistance program for low- and moderate-income families.

The program, which will be run by Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver in her role as the head of the Department of Community Affairs, will be funded primarily by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act.

It is not the bill that passed in the Legislature — one the governor is now expected to veto.

“From the moment this emergency took hold, we have made it clear that no family should fear losing their home as a result of financial hardship due to COVID-19,” Murphy said. “And, as another rent day approaches, I want to reiterate this point.

“Our strong eviction and foreclosure moratoriums remain firmly in place, and will remain in force until weeks after this emergency eventually comes to an end. And, we continue working closely with our legislative and community-based partners to further strengthen protections for tenants, and I hope we will have much more on those plans in the near future.”

Murphy, speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing, said the goal is to have the first rent-assistance checks flowing to landlords later this summer. And he noted the state will work with landlords to ensure that back rent does not adversely impact any family, and to ensure realistic and empathetic back-rent payment plans.

Dave Brogan, the head of the New Jersey Apartment Association, said he was encouraged by the announcement.

“From the start of this crisis, our association and membership have been advocating for a rental assistance program to help those in need,” he said. “The use of federal and state funds to support tenants facing financial challenges is imperative to keeping tenants in their homes and the multifamily industry intact. Our association looks forward to reviewing details of the state rental assistance program as they become available.”

The NJAA supported S-2332/A-3956, which passed the Legislature and was sent to the governor’s desk earlier this month.

“We are supportive of that well-thought-out legislation due to the fact that it established rational criteria, focused on those impacted by COVID-19, and had protections to mitigate fraud. It is our sincere hope that the governor’s program will incorporate and mirror those provisions,” he said.

Other notes from the briefing:

Hospital numbers

All the key indicators — hopitalizations and the number of people in intensive care and on ventilators — all trended in the right direction.

Hospital numbers, as of 10 p.m. Thursday night:

  • In hospitals: 2,707;
  • In intensive/critical care: 720;
  • On ventilators: 544;
  • Admitted: 183;
  • Discharged: 231;
  • FEMA hospitals: 21;
  • Positivity rate: 6%.

Murphy also announced there were 1,117 additional COVID-19 cases, raising the state total to 158,844, and that there were 131 additional fatalities, raising the state total to 11,531.

Day care center grants

New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson announced the immediate availability of up to $20 million in grants to assist child care centers and youth camps in meeting health and safety guidelines in response to COVID-19.

Child care centers can receive up to $5,000, while youth camps can receive up to $2,000.

The money can be used to purchase additional cleaning products, personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and thermometers, and other products and services to assist centers in complying with appropriate guidelines.

The final word

Murphy on potential cuts to education, one of his top priorities:

Everything is on the table, sadly. If we don’t get the borrowing, if we don’t get the federal cash, there’s nothing that’s sacred.”

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: