By SOPHIE NIETO-MUNOZ
New Jersey Monitor
A new program will help identify tenants eligible for rental assistance programs and get the word out about applications under a new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last month.
The law creates the Rental Assistance Navigation Program, which will be established within the Department of Community Affairs. The Administrative Office of the Courts will also work with the DCA to assist navigators in finding renters who are eligible for rental aid.
The program aims to provide additional support to struggling tenants who are at risk of eviction or took a financial hit during the pandemic. It also seeks to alleviate the backlog in landlord-tenant courts, where more than 80,000 cases have been filed in the last two years.
Program staffers will be assigned to court vicinages for one year to attend eviction hearings and reach out to tenants with information on rental aid, eviction protection, and other legal and counseling services.
An annual report will be issued to the governor and Legislature to show how many people the program has helped, including a breakdown of applicants by race, ethnicity, gender, primary language spoken, and more.
New Jersey recently finished its second round of coronavirus-related rental programs, which doled out more than $100 million in assistance to low- and middle-income families.
Administrative costs of the program will fall to the DCA, according to the bill’s language.
The bill (S3955), passed by the Legislature in July, had been conditionally vetoed in November by Murphy, who asked for amendments with an eye toward guidelines that apply to programs funded with federal coronavirus-related dollars.