In early 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. This law created a Homeowner Assistance Fund, a federal program, to give $10 billion to the states to help households that are behind on their mortgages and other housing-related expenses due to COVID-19.
Eligible homeowners in New Jersey who've experienced a financial hardship because of the pandemic can get a piece of the $325 million allocated to the state ($270 million is earmarked for direct homeowner assistance) from the New Jersey Emergency Rescue Mortgage Assistance (NJ ERMA) program. This program uses federal money, up to $35,000 per household, to help homeowners pay mortgage payments and other housing-related expenses, like property taxes and homeowners' insurance.
The NJ ERMA program offers money to eligible New Jersey homeowners to:
To qualify for relief from the NJ ERMA program, you must have suffered a financial hardship (a material reduction in income or an increase in living expenses) after January 21, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Also, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
Homes already in foreclosure are eligible for assistance. And if you already received funds from the state's Hardest Hit Fund programs, such as HomeKeeper and HomeSaver, you can still apply to get money from this new fund.
Take a prescreening quiz to find out if you're eligible for the NJ ERMA program. You can find a link on the NJ ERMA website.
Assistance will be in the form of a subordinate lien recorded against your home that's forgivable after three years. You only have to repay the assistance if you sell your home or receive cash back from a refinancing within three years.
The assistance payment goes directly to your loan servicer or other approved entity, like the tax office or insurance company.
The NJ ERMA program will start accepting applications on February 8, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. ET. To apply, go to the NJ ERMA website and register for an account.
You'll have to provide some documentation with your application, including a government-issued ID (like a driver's license), paperwork showing your housing-related costs, such as mortgage statements, as well as proof of income, such as pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns. For a complete list of items you'll need, go here.
If you get an unsolicited offer by phone, in the U.S. mail, through email, or by text message offering mortgage relief or foreclosure rescue services, be wary. Scammers are increasingly targeting homeowners who've been affected by COVID-19. Getting help from the NJ ERMA program is free. If anyone asks you to pay a fee to get housing counseling or foreclosure prevention services from this program, it's a scam. If you experience fraud associated with this program, be sure to report it.
If you need help with your application, contact a HUD-approved housing counselor who will assist you at no cost. To find a counselor near you, go to the NJ ERMA program's "Find a Counselor" website, visit HUD's website, or call 800-569-4287.
Effective date: February 8, 2022