January 3, 2022 Joe Amditis

NJ renters who missed application deadline for state aid find ray of hope with city funding

By Maricarmen Amado, New Jersey Hispano

This story was produced as part of a six-month COVID-19 reporting fellowship with NJ ethnic and community media organized by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. It has been updated and edited from its original version.

 

TRENTON, NJ — The application for the state COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program, which provides rental arrears and temporary rental assistance to low- and moderate-income households in New Jersey, ended on December 15, 2021. The state program will utilize over $1.2 billion in federal stimulus money, along with additional federal money in the coming months.

But for renters who missed the state deadline and experienced financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a ray of hope for rental aid from cities and municipalities in the state. Over $230 million in federal stimulus money was provided to 14 counties and two cities for rental assistance.

While some counties will coordinate with the state, others will have their own stand-alone rental assistance programs.

The counties that received federal rental assistance funds include Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, and Union County. And the cities that received federal rental assistance funds include Jersey City and Newark.

But according to NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA), those who have not previously submitted a pre-application for state assistance and are in need of help in paying rent arrears between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021, or future rental assistance, they may still submit a pre-application to be considered in the future, if DCA receives additional funds. The pre-application form can be found here: https://njdca.onlinepha.com/

“But you can’t get assistance for the same months from more than one program. So, if you owed, say, eight months of rent, you could get four months from the state and four months from a local or county program. But you just couldn’t claim or receive money for the same months from more than one program,” said Renee Koubiadis director of the anti-poverty program at New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA).

Before the December 15, 2021, deadline, there were 180,000 households that have applied for rental assistance in New Jersey, Koubiadis added during the press briefing with ethnic media, organized by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. An average of 15,000 people, who applied for self-certification, are now waiting to be approved.

“There are 180,000 households that have applied for assistance at the state level, but only around 15,000 people have submitted self-certification,” Koubiadis added.“There is a disconnect.”

However, as New Jersey’s moratorium on evictions was lifted on December 31, 2021, landlords will now be able to evict low-income tenants who miss or are late with January’s rent. But it remains unclear how long the court process will take — judges face a backlog of close to 52,000 landlord-tenant cases as of the end of November.

Koubiadis said that the only way to be protected is to apply for the rental assistance program.

“$1.2 billion was allocated to this program, but that’s just the state money. There is much more money in the counties and municipalities,” Koubiadis noted. “And like what I said, we are hopeful that there will be more money early next year to reopen emergency rental assistance statewide and provide even more money. So, we are hopeful that ultimately there is not so much unpaid rent.”

The Passaic County EWRAP Rental Assistance office informed New Jersey Hispano that they are still accepting applications, and that the deadline has not yet ended.

“They have not given us a date when this program will end, but we still have funds and residents can continue to submit their applications,” said a Passaic County program official, explaining that the aid covers 18 months in arrears.

“It’s only 18 months and those who have the application approved are granted up to $ 20,000 that is delivered to the bank account of the owner of the house,” the program official said.“Before releasing (delivering) the funds, an electronic letter is delivered to the landlord and tenant, to be signed and then the payment is made to the landlord.”

Where to go for local rental help

Featured image caption: A vacant home sits in the suburbs of Newark, New Jersey, becoming property of the city itself. (Photo credit: Julian Riggs)

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Joe Amditis

Joe Amditis is the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. He can be reached via email at amditisj@montclair.edu and on Twitter at @jsamditis.