The COVID-19 pandemic has not only been a health crisis, but it has also had a devastating financial impact for many. One of those people is Anisha Mohammed. She lives in Newark and because she couldn’t work during the height of the pandemic, she is four months behind on her rent. With eviction protection set to expire at the end of 2021, she fears losing her housing.
“I couldn’t go to work and then I just started back at work this year,” Mohammed explained. She paid her rent as long as she could until she exhausted her savings.
Mohammed and many other Newark residents have applied for the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). ERAP funds will pay up to 12 months of past-due rent and up to three months future rent for accepted applicants.
Such funding can be a lifeline for those in need, including Mohammed who has three children and a grandchild living with her.
“This would be helpful until I get back up on my feet because now I’m working,” she said. “I want to qualify for money for the back rent because you still have to pay the one in front.”
New Community is one of the community-based organizations that has partnered with the City of Newark to help connect residents financially impacted by COVID-19 to emergency rental assistance. The city’s ERAP program, which began in July, has been extended. Applications will be accepted through Jan. 7, 2022.
New Community personnel meet with applicants and assist them throughout the application process. They scan and input necessary documentation, set up email accounts for those without them and make sure applicants have all necessary documents for a complete application. They also follow up with applicants if additional information is requested.
“As a landlord, New Community is vested in our residents, neighborhoods and the community. We are assisting those that need help in applying for eviction relief funds,” said NCC Chief Operating Officer Fred Hunter. “No one wants to see families being evicted. Also, this time of the year children should be enjoying the holiday season and not worrying where their family will be living come winter.”
In addition to assisting ERAP applicants, New Community personnel participate in outreach to encourage more people to apply. They have handed out information at events, put flyers in food boxes and displayed program details in prominent community areas.
Those who receive ERAP application assistance with New Community also get information about other programs and services available to them.
“We never let people come for just one service,” said New Community Family Resource Success Center Director Joann Williams-Swiney. “We try to make sure all their needs are met. Many of the residents who come in for ERAP also apply for the energy assistance program.”
Mohammed was prescreened when she called about ERAP and obtained a dual appointment for the ERAP and energy assistance applications. Williams-Swiney helped Mohammed apply to both programs.
In addition to benefit programs, ERAP applicants are also introduced to New Community’s many offerings, including educational opportunities at New Community Career & Technical Institute (NCCTI) and the Adult Learning Center and behavioral health care provided by Family Service Bureau of Newark (FSB).
Applicants can also be assisted in other ways. During Mohammed’s appointment, she said she was having electrical issues and a rodent problem that hadn’t been addressed by her landlord. Williams-Swiney contacted the city’s Code Enforcement office on Mohammed’s behalf and provided her with additional information surrounding those issues.
“This is why it’s important to take a little time with people. Because there are bigger pictures in many cases,” Williams-Swiney said. “We want to do what we can to try to help them holistically. Not just do the application and send them on their way.”
To qualify for ERAP, the applicant must meet all of the following requirements:
- Be a Newark resident
- Have a 2020 household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) in the City of Newark
- One or more members of the household qualify for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to COVID-19
- One or more members of the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability
- Be currently responsible for paying rent at the primary residence
Eligible tenants and landlords are encouraged to call 973-824-6484 to make an appointment for ERAP assistance through New Community. Appointments are conducted at 274 South Orange Ave., Newark.
Additional information about ERAP is available at newarkcovid19.com.