CAMDEN, NJ — Until this morning, Vanessa Velez, 35, was only used to hearing bad news.
The Camden single mother of four left her job at the end of May for fear of contracting the coronavirus - a move she says was difficult but necessary given the situation at her job. Several coworkers had become sick and communication - although she doesn’t blame the employer - ebbed and flowed given all the unknowns surrounding the respiratory virus.
In June, she says scammers drained her bank account of more than $4,200 — cutting into her savings. It was further stress she didn’t need, while balancing not only her children at home but nursing school.
She figured unemployment would help her manage while she settled into her next job. But neither came to fruition. She hasn’t received any benefits, and she has yet to land a new gig.
“I discussed it with my landlord, who I have a good relationship with, since I know he has his own situation to worry about. I said I would pay what I could, and he was very understanding. I paid up to June but I couldn’t anymore at that point. I had to start considering how I was going to pay utilities, keep the Wi-Fi on, keep food in our stomachs,” Velez told TAPinto Camden.
Velez, who lives in Camden’s Whitman Park neighborhood, on Thursday morning became the first applicant certified for rental assistance as part of a new $4 million Camden County program.
She applied at 8 a.m. this morning and heard back not long after that she would receive six months of back rent that adds up to roughly $4,000.
“When I found out I just cried,” Velez said.
The Camden resident was one of 350 applicants that submitted for the CARES Act funding within the first four hours.
With the much-needed breathing room, Velez says she will focus on finding new employment and focus on helping her children navigate remote learning.
“Thank God known of us has had [COVID], that’s what I think about and I’m very blessed for that," Velez said. "I also know these funds will do the same for many families and I’m very appreciative for all who had a hand in making them possible.”
Tenants throughout the county can apply for up to six months of back rent payments (April 2020 through Sept. 2020) - funds of which will be sent to the landlord.
To qualify you must adhere to the following parameters:
Tenants cannot earn more than 50% of Average Area Median Income (AMI);
Applicants will be required to provide proof of loss/reduction in employment or income;
No duplication of funds will be permitted – apartments/landlords which are funded under the State’s tenant assistance program or Section 8 are not eligible;
Landlords must agree to waive late fees and penalties accrued from April 2020 to September 2020; and
Lease must have begun prior to 3/1/2020.
Below are the income limits:
"While evictions have been paused to protect renters from being left homeless during this crisis, families are watching what they owe grow without any idea of how they’ll settle that debt before evictions resume,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli on Thursday morning as funds were launched. “[The program] won’t be a panacea, but it will be a significant lifeline to hundreds of families.”
“The CARES Act has delivered critical federal resources to local governments, and I applaud Camden County’s innovation in creating this rental assistance program to help residents struggling to make payments,” said Congressman Donald Norcross. “This money will provide vital funding renters who need our support during the ongoing public health crisis.”