BY AMANDA DEVECKA-RINEAR
Every one of you who took action this year should pat yourself on the back for the progress we made – from extending ICC funding for three more years, to a commitment from Governor Murphy for $50 million dollars available to families still struggling, and a freeze on clawbacks. I am so relieved that families have options and a more fair system. And, we’ve got challenges that mean we are not yet done “standing up and speaking out” for our communities.
We have been working with the DCA and Governor’s office on the new fund. You may originally remember the number 15 years. In good news that is now down to 5 years! And I’ll share with you all the information we currently have.
The Supplemental Fund will be available to folks in RREM who are still struggling to make it home or finish. You will need to go through a process to determine a need and then additional funding can be made available. In order to access it, you’ll need to show you need it (aka this isn’t a reimbursement so if you are hoping to access the fund you need to wait), and then stay in your home for five years after the project is complete. If you do that, no big deal, and the Supplemental Fund is closed. If you end up selling your house before the five-year period, you would owe some amount back, depending on when you sell. Not the whole RREM grant, just the Supplemental Funds. And that amount will go down by 20% each year that you stay in your home up to the five when it goes away.
Right now it has to go through a review process at HUD and we’ll need to publicly comment in support, we should know more in January about the timeline and roll out of this, but it’s going to take a couple months (at least) to get moving. Certainly better than not having it at all, but we know folks have needed this extra help for a long time so waiting is hard. We are hearing funds will be available Summer 2019, which is better than being poked in the eye with a dirty stick. But, sooner would certainly be better.
We’ve heard from a few of you over the last couple months and weeks. Here’s the deal – there is funding for families (rental assistance is not out of money), but the current challenge that some folks are hitting the 21 month max that is currently allowed by HUD for that funding. Know that the state is very aware of that and is already hustling to get that timeline extended and figure out how to address this. We hope to hear any day now – but we may need to act together to get HUD to take action – stay tuned for an action alert. Or if you want to call or write your Federal Congressman now to say how important this is, please do. They are likely aware but hearing directly from you makes it real and more important.
That means if you got a letter telling you that you owe money back in three years, you should hear from the DCA in January or February that you no longer owe funding back on that timeline. The first folks who got letters were told their clawbacks were due this coming March. Under the old system, if people didn’t pay (and many people can’t) the state could have sent them either to legal channels or to Treasury to recoup. WE GOT RID OF THAT.
Right now, the process for dealing with clawbacks is being worked out. But I’ll say this, as many of you have said before – it is ridiculous that SBA loans and ICC funding are even considered a duplication of benefits (DOB). Remember I told you in Louisiana that got waved regarding SBA but not for us? We need to work with our Congressmen to get that same change for New Jersey AND include ICC. Doing that would mean the state wouldn’t be on the hook to the feds for much of this funding, we wouldn’t be on the hook to the state, and honestly it’s just the right thing to do. If the system is broken, we will fix it for us and other folks moving forward.
In the meantime, if you’ve gotten a call or even a letter make sure to contact DCA and send in ALL THE RECEIPTS. People are getting their amount due lowered all the time. The DCA is still working to collect information during the closeout process. If someone has indicated to you via a phone call that you might have what DCA would call “an overdisbursement” – again – send in all the receipts. Once the new policy and process is finalized we’ll know more about what is next.
And either way, join us in pushing Congress on DOB and working on a hardship process that will help as many families as we can. But in the meantime, you’re off the hook for that three-year deadline so breathe easy.
That means all hands on deck contacting our local legislators, but so far when we’ve brought this up with our state elected officials and the Governor’s office, people have been supportive. So let’s jump in in January and get this done. There are a couple other interesting bills we can get behind too. One makes it easier to get your grant adjusted without a charging document if you’ve experienced contractor fraud, and another requires local municipalities to report how much they have invested in flood mitigation efforts.
Stay tuned for more information and action. And congrats on all your work.