A bill before the state Senate on Monday would help New Jersey’s residential tenants pay rent.AP
New Jersey lawmakers want $100 million in emergency rent relief for residential tenants caught in the coronavirus economic crisis and struggling to pay their rent.
A bill, S2332, before the state Senate on Monday would create a state-run program targeting low- and middle-income New Jerseyans who are “in imminent danger of homelessness” due to a loss in income.
Economists predict catastrophic unemployment. And in New Jersey, nearly 577,000 workers have applied for unemployment benefits through the state in just the last three weeks, as Gov. Phil Murphy ordered entire business sectors shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Murphy has asked for compassion from mortgage lenders and landlords for homeowners and renters faced with the sudden loss of income. He’s also ordered a moratorium on evictions during the state of emergency.
But rents will come due, and many New Jerseyans won’t be able to pay, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a bill sponsor, said Thursday.
“It’s nice not to evict someone, but if we don’t help people, the 90 days is up and here comes a bill,” he said. “I’m going to get a bill with three months rent that I’m not able to pay.”
“I hope we can do it quickly,” he added. “There’s a lot of pain right now.”
Under the bill, rental assistance would be run through homelessness prevention agencies in each county that would pay landlords directly on behalf of renters who are at risk of losing their housing.
In order the qualify, tenants must be at least 30 days past due on their rent, unable to make the payment without help, and have been harmed financially by the pandemic, according to the bill.
“We are living in unprecedented times where tenants should not have to choose between feeding their families or paying their rent,” said state Sen. Brian Stack, D-Hudson, who sponsored the bill. “Likewise, landlords, without collecting rent from tenants, may be unable to pay their mortgages. Residents are facing enough with this virus and they need relief instead of more of a hardships for them to overcome.”
The emergency rental assistance would be funded through federal stimulus aid, if possible, or out of state coffers, the bills says.
The state Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill Monday. It must pass both legislative chambers and be signed by the governor to become law.