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U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Menendez bill would create $75 billion housing assistance fund

By Nikita Biryukov, April 10 2020 12:15 pm

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez plans to introduce a bill creating a housing aid fund worth tens of billions of dollars in response to the fiscal tumble caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Families all across New Jersey are already facing an incredibly tough and uncertain time as we endure a public health crisis and brace for a worsening economic crisis,” Menendez said. “This devastating one-two punch has the power to cause a massive wave of foreclosures and evictions throughout our communities. We cannot afford to sit back and wait to act until families are underwater, wiped-out or out on the street.”

Though Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered moratoriums on mortgage and rent payments and barred evictions and foreclosures for the immediate duration of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s not clear what will happen to those guarantees after the pandemic begins to subside.

New Jersey’s economy has gasped over the last month as businesses were forced closed and residents were instructed, then later ordered, to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel.

“Direct federal support, in the form of a Housing Assistance Fund, could be a gamechanger for New Jerseyans, providing our homeowners with much-needed financial relief in the absence of stable income,” Murphy said. “I commend Senator Menendez for his efforts to deliver meaningful aid to New Jersey, as we continue to address an unprecedented surge in unemployment and economic uncertainty as a result of this public health crisis.”

Menendez’s bill, which is cosponsored by the entire Democratic cohort of the Senate Banking Committee, would create a $75 billion housing assistance fund meant to shield New Jerseyans from the financial strains created by the crisis.

“This fund could provide support to thousands of New Jersey homeowners who, through no fault of their own, have lost income as a result of the pandemic,” said Charles Richman, executive director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. “It will help ensure they can stay safe at home until they can get back to work.”

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