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New Jersey Citizen Action Applauds State Senate's Passage Of Bills Providing Relief For Renters, Mortgage Payers While Urging Swift Action On Bills Addressing Debt Collection

Insider NJ — April 13, 2020

New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) applauded the State Senate today for unanimously passing legislation providing urgently needed relief for New Jersey renters and mortgage payers, while calling on the full Legislature to quickly advance bills protecting state residents from debt collection activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has sparked a massive economic crisis, with hundreds of thousands of state residents having lost jobs or income, and countless individuals and families struggling to pay for rent, mortgages, and other basic necessities.

"These bills addressing rent and mortgages strengthen Governor Murphy's moratorium on evictions by providing badly needed relief to New Jersey renters and mortgage payers, and will help ensure everyone in the state has a home to go to when we tell them to stay at home," said Beverly Brown Ruggia, Financial Justice Organizer for New Jersey Citizen Action. "The bills also provide some protection to small business owners struggling to survive the pandemic. We thank the Senate for their swift action, call on the Assembly to advance and pass this legislation as soon as possible and urge Governor Murphy to sign these bills into law without delay."

The Senate passed legislation to establish the New Jersey Rental Assistance Program (S2332), which appropriates $100 million for rental relief for low, moderate and medium-income New Jersesyans who have lost jobs or income due the COVID-19 crisis and are struggling to pay rent or keep up with rent payments. It directly addresses the struggles renters will face after the State of Emergency is lifted by allowing tenants to apply for the funds they need to avoid eviction up to 90 days after the moratorium is lifted.

The Senate also passed bills (S2340 and S2341) essential to protecting both residential homeowners and tenants, as well as commercial tenants, from unfair and unnecessary displacements during this global health crisis. These bills codify executive orders issued by Governor murphy to permit mortgage forbearance and rent payment reductions for property owners and tenants, and restricting rent increases on commercial tenants impacted by emergencies such as the pandemic. The legislation also strengthens the Governor's authority to restrict rent increases on residential tenants during emergency circumstances.

However, NJCA expressed disappointment that the The COVID-19 Financial Security Act (S2330 and A3908) was not taken up by either the State Assembly or Senate today. The Act addresses the financial crisis countless New Jerseyans face to pay down debt or respond to administrative actions related to debt or alleged debt while also struggling to meet basic living expenses. It ensures that the debt collectors cannot contact consumers to discuss debt claims or enforce judgements, and that credit reporting can't be used against individuals for debts incurred during the crisis. The bill also provides special protections related to medical debt collection.

"The Financial Security Act needs to be a top priority for our Legislature," said Brown Ruggia. "The financial strain brought on by the crisis means that many people cannot even meet their basic living expenses, much less pay down debt or respond to administrative actions related to debt or alleged debt. We ask our state lawmakers not to bow to any pressure from corporate interests on this issue, and instead prioritize the health, well-being and economic security of all New Jerseyans."

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