Since launching in May, the Middlesex County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (MCERAP) has already distributed $847,905 in rental assistance and $50,305 in utilities assistance, totaling more than $898,000 in combined assistance for renter households in Middlesex County.
Millions of dollars are still available for distribution; eligible renters are urged to apply for assistance.
MCERAP, which is funded through a $24.6 million grant from the federal government, is open to renter households in Middlesex County that meet specific criteria, according to information provided by the county.
Funding is distributed on a priority basis, directly to landlords and utility companies. Assistance is limited to a maximum of 12 months of arrears and cannot be provided for rental and/or utility arrears incurred prior to March 2020.
“The economic crisis caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic has left countless Americans in financial distress due to job loss or reduced work hours. That includes many individuals and families right here in Middlesex County,” Board of County Commissioners Director Ronald G. Rios said in the statement. “Even as the economy begins to recover, there are many still in need of a helping hand to pay their rent or utility bills. The MCERAP offers just that – and there is still funding available. I encourage anyone who may be eligible to apply for assistance today at middlesexcountynj.gov/rentalassistance.”
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., so many people were left out of work and struggling to get by financially,” County Commissioner Claribel A. Azcona-Barber. “That’s why the county worked hard to create the MCERAP. It is an excellent resource for any renter who has fallen behind on their rent or utility bills because of the pandemic. If you are struggling financially and think that you may meet the eligibility requirements, I hope you will apply for financial assistance through this program.”
Households eligible for financial assistance through the MCERAP are renter households in which at least one individual meets the following criteria:
- Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19
- Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, mainly documented by having an outstanding rental balance and/or eviction filing
- Has a household income at or below 80% of the area median income. Area median income guidelines can be found at middlesexcountynj.gov/rentalassistance. Note: Eligible households that include an individual who has been unemployed for the 90 days prior to application for assistance, and households with income at or below 50% of the area median, will be prioritized for assistance.
Applying for Assistance
Applications for financial assistance from the MCERAP may be submitted by an adult member of an eligible household or by a landlord on behalf of that eligible household. All required information and documentation must be submitted before an application will be considered for funding. Required documentation may include a copy of the rental agreement, tax returns, pay stubs, etc.
Rental assistance provided on behalf of an eligible household should not duplicate any other federally funded rental assistance provided to that household. For households in voucher subsidized units like Section 8, or in Public Housing, assistance may be available for the tenant’s portion of the rent or to pay an outstanding utility balance.
Rental assistance may be provided on behalf of individuals who had a rental unit prior to the pandemic commencing in March 2020, lost the rental unit due to the pandemic, and executed a lease for a new rental unit but are having difficulty paying the first few months of the new lease.
If an eligible household is behind on rent payments, also known as being in arrears, assistance must be provided to reduce or pay off the back rent before that household may be eligible for assistance with future rent payments.
Individuals seeking additional information regarding MCERAP, and those interested in applying for financial assistance, should visit middlesexcountynj.gov/rentalassistance.