MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – The Morris County Department of Human Services has been highly successful in disbursing federal rental assistance made available to families and landlords impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, countering a national trend in which disbursements have stalled.
Congress allocated more than $45 billion in rental aid this past spring to help low- and moderate-income families struggling to pay the rent through the pandemic; however the U.S. Department of Treasury reported that only about a fifth of the dollars had reached households as of the end of September. Morris County and Burlington County, in partnership with the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA), have been notable exceptions because of aggressive efforts to reach people in need.
A total of $14,677,248.30 was allotted to Morris County. As of Oct. 24, Morris County had disbursed $11,980,600.12 to 1,287 applicants. The state DCA estimates the full allotment will be disbursed by the end of the year.
“We collaborated closely with our local non-profits and other partner agencies to alert and contact both landlords and residents in need. We also received critical support from our Administrative Office of the Courts, who held monthly educational webinars to help inform tenant and landlord groups and other stakeholders. Additionally, our staff on the Navigating Hope van continue to be out in the community multiple times a week informing and educating residents in need of support. It truly takes partnerships to make this initiative successful, and the work continues,” said Kasey Errico, Director of Morris County Human Services.
The aid remains available in Morris County and the State of New Jersey to people who had a substantial reduction in income, have qualified for unemployment benefits, incurred significant costs or experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NOTE: A new income threshold, cited below, increases eligibility for assistance to many more households.
“We have also received additional federal funding for the program which will begin to be allocated once this first round is distributed,” Errico said.
Renters and landlords may inquire about the program by simply checking the criteria provided at the DCA COVID-19 Information website. To apply, go to: https://njdca.onlinepha.com/
The federal Emergency Rental Assistance funding is designed to help avert a housing crisis for tenants in critical need of such support. The funding also will bring needed relief to landlords, who have been challenged by the financial impacts of the pandemic as well, according to Errico.
Morris County collaborated with the DCA, as have other counties, to utilize the state’s program vendor and eliminate confusion for those in need by using one on-line portal to access the assistance application.
The program covers two areas:
- Emergency Rental Assistance for Arrears: Applicants may be eligible for up to a maximum of twelve months of emergency rental assistance to help pay for rent arrears and future rent to the extent that funds are available. Families that have already received funding through Phase I of the program, that need additional rent support, and have not yet received the maximum twelve months of emergency rental assistance can apply for additional funding.
- Emergency Rental Assistance for Current and Future Rents: Financial assistance is limited to three months based on application submitted, except that the household may receive additional assistance for additional months subject to the availability of remaining funds and eligibility, not to exceed 12 months (plus an additional three months if necessary to ensure housing stability).
Persons applying must meet all applicable income and eligibility requirements. You must be eighteen (18) years of age or older to apply or be an emancipated minor. Only one (1) application per household will be accepted. Applications will be accepted until enough applications have been received to ensure distribution of all available funds. A computerized selection (lottery) process will be used to select residents who have been impacted by COVID-19 for eligibility determination.
Eligibility Criteria: Selected households must meet the following eligibility criteria to qualify for assistance:
- Qualify for unemployment or have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability;
- Have a household income at or below 120 percent of the area median income (please see income limits at https://njdca.onlinepha.com/);
- Have a lack of assets and savings to pay rent arrears or current and future rent;
- Be a New Jersey resident; and
- Obligated to pay rent on a residential dwelling.
The program will only pay for rent arrears incurred after March 13, 2020.
Property managers or owners of a residential dwelling may apply for assistance on behalf of a tenant.
The landlord must:
- Obtain the signature of the tenant on the application, which may be documented electronically; and
- Must provide documentation of the application to the tenant to notify the tenant that the application has been submitted.