Renters statewide and nationally have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mercer County officials are seeking to support the county’s most in need on catch up on rent after being awarded close to $11 million in federal funds. The federal funds are from the latest signed $900 billion stimulus package back in December 2020.
The county’s new grant funds are designed to help individuals, specifically the most vulnerable residents, avoid eviction as the pandemic continues and also help with past due utilities. Those eligible are only Mercer County renters and applications opened on March 1.
“The plan is to process applications as quickly as possible to get funds in the hands of tenants and landlords who are suffering through this crisis,” Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said.
There is no hard cap for rental assistance monies from the county’s recent grant of federal funds for each application that screened and approved. The county Board of Social Services will be tasked with screening and certifying applicants.
“Applicants will be pooled based on income and decisions will be made based on income eligibility. Each application will be evaluated independently,” said Michael Boonin, Mercer County deputy director of communications.
According to the county, the Board of Social Services will also work with community partners to ensure that eligible community residents get access to the resources.
Mercer County applicants that are eligible must qualify for unemployment or have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19; must demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, for example, have a past-due utility or rent notice, or an eviction notice; and has a household income at or below 80% of the area median income.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition, a national nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing, has a state summary of affected working renters by income from January to March in 2021, which reports that New Jersey has 248,506 renters needing assistance.
According to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) analysis of the U.S Census Bureau Household survey in February, nationally nearly 1 in 5 renters is not caught up on rent during the pandemic as an estimated 13 million adults live in rental housing.
Additionally, the analysis spotlighted that renters of color were facing the great hardship of catching up on rent during the pandemic.
Data broken down: 29% of Black renters, 22% of Latino renters, 16% of Asian renters, and 19% for American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and multiracial adults (combined) had stated that they were not caught up on rent, compared to 13% of white renters, according to the report.
For more information on applications for rental assistance funds specific to Mercer County residents, visit www.mcboss.org or call Mercer County Board of Social Services at 609-389-3575.