“Throughout 2020, we made it our County’s mission to help our residents and small businesses survive the pandemic,” said Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “We’re proud of the assistance we’ve delivered and look forward to a brighter 2021, but we know that the challenges will continue. We will do everything we possibly can to seek funding for programs for our residents and businesses.”
Last month, the Department of Treasury announced the availability of $25 billion in rental assistance funds from the latest coronavirus relief package.
States, territories and local governments with populations of more than 200,000 people are eligible to apply for a direct share of the aid to help residents struggling to cover rent and landlords impacted by losses of revenue.
Tenants and landlords are expected to be able to apply for up to 15 months of assistance, according to the Treasury Department guidelines. Awards will be made directly to participating landlords unless they choose not to participate.
To qualify for assistance, households must include at least one person who is eligible for unemployment insurance or who has suffered a COVID-19-related loss of income and is at risk of becoming homeless or housing insecure. Eligibility will also be limited to households with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income, though those with incomes below 50% will receive priority.
The exact funding Burlington County is expected to receive has not been announced. However, early projections estimate the available sum will be at least $13 million.
“We have been assisting residents through our Housing Hub since the beginning of COVID-19, but there is still a huge need for this funding program,” said Hopson. “We would like to get our County program up and running as soon as possible to get this assistance out to those in most need.”
“Even before this new Emergency Rental Assistance funding was announced, Burlington County was moving to create our own housing support program to enhance the services of our Housing Hub,” Hopson said.
In addition to approving the County’s application for the new federal funds, the Commissioners voted Wednesday to issue a request for proposals for providers interested in administering a rental assistance program with $930,000 in Community Development Block Grant-Corona Virus (CDBG-CV) response funding awarded by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
The County is also applying to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to devote a share of $2.4 million in federal funding to expand the available Community Development Block Grant-Corona Virus (CDBG-CV) response assistance even further with an upcoming bid process. Information will be posted on the County website as this funding is procured and finalized.
The federal government has imposed an eviction moratorium through January 31 and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also signed an Executive Order suspending them during the current COVID-19 health emergency. However, once the federal moratorium expires and the New Jersey emergency declaration is lifted, eviction proceedings will be able to move forward.
Already more than 3,000 landlords in Burlington County have made filings in Superior Court to begin eviction proceedings once the moratoriums are lifted.
“That’s 3,000 Burlington County families ending up displaced and on the streets. The impact would be catastrophic,” said Hopson, who is the Board’s liaison to the Department of Human Services. “We’re acting now to try to prevent this looming crisis and keep as many of our residents safe and in their homes.”
Burlington County’s Housing Hub
The County already has a Housing Hub at the Burlington County Human Services Building in Westampton to provide a single location for homeless or other residents who are housing insecure or experiencing hardships to come for services from several agencies and programs.
A total of 1,066 households received help from the Hub in 2020, including 213 recipients of rental and mortgage assistance that allowed them to remain secure and safe in their homes.
Close to 1,500 insecure households also received help from the County’s Rapid Rehousing Initiative, which provides subsidies to families to allow them to remain in or enter permanent housing.
“Our Hub has tremendous record of success since it launched, but it only shows how great the need is,” Hopson said. “That’s why we’re pushing so hard to give out more aid in 2021.”
Burlington County was one of twelve counties in the state that did not get direct funding from an earlier COVID-19 stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, because the county’s population was below a 500,000 threshold. While the Murphy administration did provide Burlington County with a share of the state’s funding, the other eight counties who received direct federal dollars received tens of millions of dollars to provide aid to renters and businesses. The County has worked diligently to seek other sources of funding to provide similar assistance.