Legislation will ensure no one is left exposed or homeless due to COVID-19 economic hardship
TRENTON, NJ – May 27, 2021 – Housing advocates today applauded Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney for introducing legislation that would give Governor Murphy the authority to keep essential housing protections in place even after the state of health emergency is lifted.
A5777/S3820 would allow the Governor to extend the moratoriums on evictions and utility shut offs through the end of this year. The advocates urged the Legislature to pass the bill as quickly as possible to ensure that renters and homeowners for whom COVID-19 relief programs fall short do not lose their homes.
“We now have a great deal of financial relief coming from the Biden Administration and Congress, and through the State that is going to help residents pay off rent, mortgage and utility debt accumulated during the health crisis,” said Beverly Brown Ruggia, Financial Justice Program Director for NJ Citizen Action. “But that money will not reach everyone. The Governor must retain the authority to protect anyone left out of the financial aid programs from being put out in the street or having essential utilities shut off.”
As part of a plan to end the New Jersey public-health emergency, A5777/S3820 would revoke all but 15 of Governor Murphy’s executive orders related to the pandemic 30 days after it is signed into law. If A5777 passes in both chambers, those 15 orders could stay in place until Jan. 1, 2022, which will keep thousands of people safe in their homes while the State continues to get New Jerseyans vaccinated, get workers back on the job, get children back to school, and move towards economic recovery.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult on everyone, including both tenants and landlords. It is vital that the Governor continue to extend the eviction moratorium to protect tenants from potential homelessness during this difficult time,” commented Joe Johnson, Legal Policy Fellow with American Civil Liberties Union of NJ. “The moratorium must stay in place at least until the State enacts a more long-term response to the incoming flood of evictions that provides relief for all impacted by the crisis.”
“This pandemic has put so many at risk of losing everything, it would be immoral to lift the moratorium without a plan that leaves no family behind,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Organizing and Advocacy for the Ironbound Community Corporation. “We cannot rush to put a band-aid on the open wounds left from the past 14 months. We must work with intention to ensure that housing is a human right for all and that no one loses their home.”
Advocates are additionally concerned that pending legislation, which will provide financial relief to certain landlords and tenants as well as mortgage payment relief for residential property owners and small landlords, has stalled in the negotiation phase. Giving the Governor the ability to extend the moratorium will provide a backstop for where financial aid and currently proposed legislation falls short.
This policy also gives the State time to implement any other protections or relief needed to avoid harmful evictions and foreclosures. For instance, there is federal funding for utility assistance that has not yet been made available, and protections are still needed for people who have fallen behind on their bills as a result of the public health and economic crises.
“With at least $650 million in utility arrears, now is not the time to end a shut-off moratorium,” added Renee Koubiadis, Anti-Poverty Program Director for NJ Citizen Action. “Our state’s leaders need to be able to keep these vital protections in place until the appropriate solutions are reached. No one’s health should be at risk from loss of power or water caused by the pandemic.”
“Throughout this crisis New Jerseyans have been terrified that they will lose their homes when the eviction moratorium ends. That threat has been alleviated for many, but not for all. We have come too far to let the pandemic safety net fall apart when thousands of people are still in jeopardy. The extended eviction authority provided to Governor Murphy in A5777/S3820 is an economic, health and moral imperative,” continued Brown Ruggia.
New Jersey Citizen Action is a statewide advocacy and social service organization that advocates for social, racial and economic justice for all while also meeting the pressing needs of low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans through education and direct service.