On January 1, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) changed the application process for emergency rental assistance. Among the changes, applicants must now have at least one month of rent arrears to become eligible rather than receiving assistance in advance. Applicants seeking another 3-month rent stipend will also need to fall one month behind on rent then reapply, replacing a simpler recertification process for additional rent assistance.
According to DHCD, it is making the changes to preserve funding for emergency rental assistance so it will last for longer as the state spends down available funds, which it predicts will run out in six months. DHCD says that these changes are also being made to help more families by targeting those who have not yet received assistance.
On January 1, the maximum cap for resources from the state's Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program also decreased from $10,000 to $7,000. This decrease is required under current state law.
Advocates worry that the changes will cut off vulnerable families from assistance with little notice as the virus continues to spread. In a letter to the Legislature, organizations have called on the state to not make these administrative changes, restore the $10,000 RAFT benefit cap, and invest more in emergency rental assistance programs.