New Jersey is one of several states that enacted a moratorium last year halting eviction proceedings, while tenants in other states are holding their breaths after House Democrats failed last week to push through a last-minute extension of the federal stop-gap pandemic measure that expired on Saturday.
President Joe Biden is calling on more state and municipal officials to take steps that delay reckoning for millions of Americans who fell behind on rent payments due to economic consequences related to the pandemic.
New Jersey’s moratorium will remain in place until Jan. 1, 2022, at the latest because of a bill Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law. The moratorium doesn’t affect when rent is due, and tenants still owe the rent.
The White House said a recent Supreme Court decision means the administration lacks the authority to institute another extension and called on lawmakers to act but Congress couldn’t muster the votes on Friday, even in the Demcoratic-controlled House, to pass a bill.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that President Joe Biden urged the CDC to consider extending the eviction for another month in counties with high case rates of Covid.
New Jersey state official have been accused of dragging their feet in the distribution of $353 million in rental assistance to low- and moderate-income households that are experiencing a substantial reduction in income. The state has been notified that the federal government is sending another $272 million from the American Rescue Plan for rental assistance. So far, only about one in ten applicants have received any of that money.
The Department of Community Affairs says the application period will remain open until all funding has been awarded, and landlords can apply on behalf of renters, with the tenant’s permission.
The state also launched the Expanded Access to Counsel and Homelessness Diversion Anti-Eviction Pilot this summer to offer legal and safety-net services to low-income households facing eviction.
The state has also been notified by the federal government that it will be awarded nearly 1,000 vouchers for emergency housing assistance to help homeless people. That’s in addition to 12 months of federal rental assistance to about 1,500 households facing homelessness.
Beyond that, the Democrat-led Legislature passed a budget appropriating $500 million in federal funds to help renters pay rent.
“Even though New Jersey has one of the strongest eviction moratoriums in place in the country, we know the moratorium will not and cannot last forever,” said Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, who runs the Department of Community Affairs. “Data shows that when the moratorium ends, the eviction crisis will likely be worse in New Jersey than the rest of the nation because a higher share of renter households are behind on payments than in other states. “
At the national level, inaction to prevent the end of the eviction moratorium has angered progressive leaders and activists, who see it as another indication that America’s political system is only interested in the welfare of affluent people and wealthy corporations.