After facing scrutiny, Jersey City’s 2nd phase of rental relief opening with expanded eligibility

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After facing scrutiny that largely came from a Huffington Post article, Jersey City’s second phase of rental relief is opening with expanded eligibility next month.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

This next phase, which be open from October 4th through October 18th, will provide eligible low-income Jersey City families with up to $10,000 in rental assistance.

With expanded eligibility, the program will focus on families living at or below 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) and those with members that have been unemployed for 90 days preceding the date of the application.

“We’ve been very clear from the start of the Rent Relief Program that we’d use a phased approach to ensure our neediest residents and landlords receive the financial assistance they deserve, rather than opening it up broadly only to have limited funds monopolized by large developers and out-of-town investors,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.

“We’ve already rolled out several financial assistance programs over the past 18 months to help residents, small business owners, and landlords impacted by COVID-19, and we will continue to expand financial assistance to those who need it most.”

Last week, The Huffington Post reported that Jersey City had received over 1,100 relief applications, had processed more than 900, and denied 800 – with just 45 applications approved.

They attributed that to the fact the prior round of relief was reserved for those who live in owner occupied-buildings with two to four units.

This led to a verbal sparring match between Spears and the Fulop administration, where officials first mentioned that the rental relief program would reopen soon.

Today, the city stood by their decision to focus on owner-occupied buildings first.

“The first phase of the COVID-19 Rent Relief Program reserved eligibility for very low-income households renting in small, owner-occupied buildings to provide financial aid to Jersey City’s most vulnerable residents, both landlords and renters. Historically, this population faces more challenges applying for aid,” their news release says.

“The initial funds focused on owner-occupied buildings, where the owner lives and relies on the rental income for sustaining their own home as opposed to a large developer or an absentee landlord that is more organized and would exhaust the limited funds available with their multiple investment properties.”

Through an executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy (D), all New Jersey residents earning less than 80 percent of the AMI are protected from evictions for non-payments through the end of the year.

“We continue our outreach efforts to make sure tenants, small landlords, and community-based partners are aware of this opportunity and know how to apply for the program,” began Jersey City Housing Authority Executive Director Vivian Brady-Philips.

“Our staff will also continue to assist renters and landlords with completing the online applications. If this round is oversubscribed, we can conduct selection by random lottery.”

Back in February, the administration dedicated $2.5 million in direct aid to over 1,638 low-income families for utility and rent relief allocated from the mayor’s COVID-19 Community Relief Distribution Fund and CARES Act funding.

95 percent of that grant money provided direct aid to residents in the Jersey City Heights and neighborhoods in the south-west section of the City.

Anyone looking for more information or to apply online can go here.