Joined by 11 local community organizations, Ward E Councilman James Solomon is calling for the Jersey City COVID-19 fund to commit at least $2 million towards rent relief.
The group outlined a COVID-19 housing crisis for the more than 71 percent of Jersey City residents who rent, many of whom are ineligible for unemployment benefits or federal stimulus relief.
â€œNearly a quarter of Jersey City renters are already severely cost-burdened, spending more than half their monthly income on rent,â€ they wrote in a letter to Mayor Steven Fulop and the Jersey City COVID-19 Community Relief Fund Committee yesterday.
â€œWithout paychecks, without savings, accruing months of back-rent debt â€¦ renters face a terrifying future. The situation is even more dire for Jersey City residents barred from federal relief.â€œ
Along with student activists, immigration advocates, tenantsâ€™ rights groups, progressive organizers, and faith leaders, Solomon proposed that the bulk of the cityâ€™s $3 million COVID-19 relief fund be set aside for renters who earn less than half Jersey Cityâ€™s average median income.
The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development sets Jersey City’s 50 percent AMI at $34,550 for an individual, or $49,300 for a family of four.
The coalitionâ€™s specific proposals includes a minimum of $2 million as direct-to-tenant rental assistance, which includes explicit information-sharing safeguards protecting applicants from federal immigration authorities and landlord retaliation.
They also suggested adding a “Relief Fund” selection committee members from non-City-or-County-appointed community organizations with direct experience advocating for Jersey Cityâ€™s undocumented immigrant and tenant communities.
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said that while the feedback is welcome, much of this proposal is already being considered.
“We appreciate all input and have received a lot of different suggestions – to be clear though, much of what is in this letter is already happening as the city is already working on a rent relief program, a right to counsel program, a small business loan program, relief for immigrants, and a host of other programs that work in conjunction with the state or federal programs.”
Reached over this phone this afternoon, Solomon said that he and others are seeking a definitive commitment on this topic.
“Weâ€™re making a very clear ask that the main focus of the relief fund, the majority of the money, go to rent relief for low-income residents. Weâ€™re going to sit down with each committee member and make that case. We think this is really the right thing to do,â€ he added.
In addition to a $3 million general community-fund, the city has pledged another $1.5 million to aid small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
The city has yet to publicize a distribution plan for their $3 million COVID-19 relief fund, though Fulop tweeted a commitment to helping everyone regardless of immigration status last month after Solomon made this assertion.
Co-signers include the Center for Undocumented Students at Saint Peterâ€™s University, Congregation Bâ€™Nai Jacob of Jersey City, Hudson County Progressive Alliance, Fr. John Hyatt, SJ, The Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement, Jersey City Vigil for Refugees, Make the Road New Jersey, NJ-08 For Progress, Saint Aedenâ€™s Migrant Center, the Social Justice Program at Saint Peterâ€™s University, and Welcome Home Jersey City.