UNION CITY, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy on Thursday signed legislation that will provide comprehensive housing eviction prevention and utility assistance for renters who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation (S-3691) appropriates an additional $500 million for the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CVERAP) and $250 million for utility assistance, both programs administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The bill also mandates new eviction and foreclosure moratorium deadlines and special eviction protections for tenants who were directly impacted by the pandemic. This legislation ensures that New Jersey’s eviction moratorium continues through August for all state residents with household incomes below 120% Area Medium Income (AMI) and through the end of the year for certain households with incomes below 80% AMI.
Wednesday's announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extending the nationwide moratorium on evictions for 60 days may provide additional protections for certain residents.
“We have heard the continuing calls for help from New Jerseyans who are struggling to pay their rent and utilities. COVID-19 has put tenants and landlords in a difficult place, and I am pleased to say that more assistance is on the way,” said Governor Murphy. “This bill is going to direct money to the people and programs that need it most. Housing and access to utilities are fundamental to human health and safety and we want to ensure that as many eligible applicants impacted by the pandemic get the help they need during this challenging time.”
“This measure provides a lifeline to people who need it most at a time of real crisis. It will help prevent renters from losing the safety and security of their homes and allow landlords to continue to maintain their properties in a safe and secure way," said Senate President Steve Sweeney. "It’s real eviction prevention because it backs up housing protections with finances so tenants aren’t burdened with debt and landlords aren’t forced into bankruptcy. Housing and utilities are essential needs that should be protected as we continue to work to emerge from the most challenging crisis of our lifetime. I want to praise Senator Stack, Senator Ruiz, Senator Rice and Senator Singleton for their productive work with advocates and other public officials to develop this plan. It is a wise use of federal funds to address two of the most serious threats caused by the pandemic.”
The Governor also signed legislation (A-4463) providing additional protections for individuals who were unable to pay rent during the public health emergency by mandating that court records pertaining to their non-payment during this period be kept confidential.
“According to New Jersey court records, around 60,000 eviction cases are currently pending statewide with almost 200,000 more expected by 2022 due to the pandemic," said Senator Troy Singleton, one of the bill's primary sponsors. “With so many people facing the threat of eviction, we have to protect them from being unfairly barred from renting again by creating confidentiality requirements for court records during the pandemic."
“With such a long history surrounding housing discrimination in this state and country, this was the right thing to do. I am proud that so many people came together to make this happen," said Singleton, who represents Bordentown in the Legislature.
The eviction prevention bill will gradually phase out the State’s eviction moratorium based on individual renters’ situations while mandating special protections for those who were unable to pay their rent during the period of March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021, or, for certain tenants, through December 31, 2021. Additionally, the CVERAP program, which was previously aimed at those who were making less than 80 percent of AMI, will expand its scope of eligible applicants by August 31, 2021, to include those making less than 120 percent of AMI.