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When the COVID outbreak really began to take hold in NJ, many families found their hours severely cut or their places of business shut down altogether. Families, many of whom could not cover a $400 bill prior to the pandemic, found themselves having to choose between feeding their families and paying the rent. Governor Phil Murphy acted quickly.  NJ became the first state to issue an eviction moratorium to protect renters who had lost income as a result of the pandemic.  NJ’s eviction moratorium will last until two months after Governor Murphy declares an end to the COVID crisis. It was recently extended until March 26, 2021  In many other states, the moratorium expires on December 31, 2020.

Once eviction cases are filed, they can be extremely difficult to remove and have lasting negative effects on a tenant’s credit.  It is also traumatic to be evicted with your children and have nowhere to go.  The eviction moratorium prevents landlords from putting families out on the street during the pandemic but families are still responsible to pay the back rent.

In July, a $1,000,000 rental relief fund was established.  Approximately 8,000 people of the 60,000 who applied were selected by lottery to receive assistance.  This is a very small amount considering that as of mid-September 330,000 to 480,000 of NJ’s 1.2 million renters were behind on their rent and at risk of eviction, according to a study done for the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

Housing advocates want the State Legislature to pass “People’s Bill,” which would require landlords and tenants to work out a payback agreement.  If approved, renters would have six months to pay back one month of rental arrears in six equal installments.  Tenants who  are behind in rent for five or more months would have 2 ½ years to repay it all.  Tax write-offs are also included for  landlords who forgive missed rent payments on smaller properties.

This is a complicated situation, which could result in what experts are calling the worst housing crisis in the history of our nation.  In the meantime, families are scrambling to find new jobs and locate assistance anywhere they can.  One place they can turn to is Family Promise.  Family Promise assesses each family individually to determine if paying back rent will stabilize the family.  Our goal is to keep families in their own apartments whenever possible and provide them with the tools and resources they need to remain safely housed going forward.