(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 recently advanced in the Senate.
“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 apartments, single-family homes, shelters, rooming houses, boarding houses, or other State licensed or approved transitional providers; instead of just according priority to the use of apartments and single-family homes; and
- annually report to the commissioner, the number of emergency assistance recipients receiving temporary rental assistance for apartments, single-family homes, shelters, rooming houses, boarding houses, or other State licensed or approved transitional providers; instead of just reporting the number of recipients receiving temporary rental assistance for apartments and single-family homes.
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 EA 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 Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved the legislation on Thursday, June 16. It now returns to the Senate President for further consideration. The Assembly approved the bill in April, 72-0.