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Township Renters Receive $2.9 Million In Aid Through County Program

Franklin Township renters received the most aid of any in the county.

Township renters received about $2.9 million in federal aid through a one-time program to prevent Covid-related evictions.

The township was one of 18 Somerset County towns which received a total of nearly $9 million in renters aid to prevent evictions of renters who had fallen behind in their rent and utilities due to reduced income caused by the pandemic, according to a press release from Somerset County.

The $2.9 million in aid Franklin renters received was the most received of any of the Somerset County towns participating in the program, according to the release.

The money was distributed through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The program prevented eviction of more than 2,000 residents in 877 households, while ensuring landlords received rent payments, according to the release. The average support package was slightly less than $10,000 and provided up to 12 months of rental arrears, three months in forward rent, and support for utility bills, according to the release.

The bulk of the funding, approximately $7.7 million, came from a federal allocation from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program II, according to the release. In early Spring it became clear that there were more applicants who met the program criteria than funds remaining, and the County stopped accepting new applications on April 12. To ensure all valid applications received prior to April 12 were supported, the Somerset County Board of Commissioners on June 7 approved the use of up to $1.6 million of American Rescue Plan allocations to supplement the ERAP II funds.

“No one should have to lose their home because of something that is completely outside of their control like the COVID pandemic,” Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson said in the release. “Because of Somerset County’s ERAP program, landlords were able to protect their property investments, and more than 2,000 of our friends and neighbors were able to stay in their homes.”

In September 2021, soon after Somerset County received its first ERAP funds, New Jersey began allowing landlords to bring tenants to mandatory settlement conferences in Landlord/Tenant court. Somerset County Counsel Joseph Demarco began attending these conferences on the first day to reach those most at risk of eviction, according to the release. On the first day of hearings Mr. Demarco was able to connect a tenant with the county staff, and allocations began.

“The rent ERAP provided kept my tenant securely in their home, and also enabled my mother and I to keep up with payments and expenses on the property,” Abel Khan, a landlord with a property in Franklin who participated in Somerset County’s ERAP program, said in the release. “Without the rental support and the utility payment my tenant would have had nowhere to go, and we would still have the expenses of the house without more than a year of revenue.”

Despite the scale and scope of the ERAP effort, Somerset County was able to keep administrative costs down to just 1.7 percent of the total allocations, ensuring that more than 98 percent of the funding went directly to Somerset County residents in need, according to the release. The overhead included staff time and resources, as well as funding the six ERAP Educators.

In addition to Franklin, Bound Brook, Somerville and North Plainfield received between $750,000 and $860,000 each, according to the release. The remaining 14 towns were awarded less than $500,000 each.

Based on race and ethnicity self-identification during the application process, African Americans received about half the funding, with White/non-Hispanic residents receiving 24 percent and Hispanic/Latino applicants receiving 22 percent of all awards, according to the release. The release said 13 percent of applicants declined to provide optional race and ethnicity information.

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