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Assembly Approves Sumter & Wimberly Bill to Prioritize Temporary Rental Assistance for Work First New Jersey Recipients

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly to require the Department of Human Services to give priority to temporary rental assistance over use of hotels or motels in emergency assistance to Work First New Jersey recipients was advanced by the Assembly on Thursday, 72-0.

“The goal is to get residents in the Work First program into a more secure rental prospect that would provide more stability for families,” said Sumter (D-Bergen Passaic). “Hotels and motels were not made for long term living and should be less relied on for temporary rental assistance. We want more permanence for families where they can more efficiently rebuild their lives instead of feeling shuffled into these places without any other option.”

The bill (A-1130) amends current law to require that the Commissioner of Human Services adopt certain regulations concerning temporary residential placements for Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who are receiving emergency assistance (EA) benefits that include temporary housing.

“Many residents have been placed in hotels and motels in emergency housing and as a result are left there with little option of moving or a permanent placement,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Residents in the Work First program deserve to obtain housing with the potential to grow and create more stability in their lives.”

Specifically, these regulations would require each county agency that administers the WFNJ program to:

  • Accord priority to the use of temporary rental assistance for apartments or single-family homes over placements in hotels or motels for persons receiving EA benefits pursuant to the amended statute; and

  • Annually report information to the commissioner, on a form and in a manner prescribed by the commissioner, on the number of EA recipients receiving temporary rental assistance for apartments or single-family homes and the number residing in participating hotels or motels respectively.

    The bill states that the information to be reported is not to include any identifying information about any person receiving EA benefits. The commissioner is to compile this information and make it available to the public upon request.

    The purpose of this bill is to establish by explicit statutory authority a clear policy preference for and a mechanism to ensure public accountability regarding, the use of temporary rental assistance for families receiving EZ benefits, in order to enable them to reside in apartments or single-family houses whenever possible. This is clearly preferable to the use of hotels or motels form the standpoint of ensuring both the prudent use of taxpayer dollars and an appropriate living environment for the children of these families.

    The bill will now head to the Senate for further review.