The Emergency Assistance (EA) program is an important resource for families and individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. EA can provide emergency shelter, pay back rent, and provide temporary rent or utility assistance for eligible recipients of WorkFirst New Jersey WFNJ (TANF/GA) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you need help, you can apply for EA at the same time that you apply for WFNJ assistance by requesting “immediate need” assistance.
Applicants must show proof that they are in an emergency housing situation. They must also explain why the situation could not be reasonably avoided. This requirement may be waived in some cases, such as “functional incapacity” (a mental health issue or addiction), domestic violence, or involvement with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. In these cases, Emergency Assistance can be provided without consideration of “fault.”
If you are eligible, the program can assist with rent arrears, utility payments, shelter placement, and other costs primarily related to housing.
One form of assistance is Temporary Rental Assistance (TRA), which provides ongoing rental assistance to pay a portion of your rent for a period of time. If approved, you contribute 30% of your household income toward rent, and the county or municipal welfare agency pays the balance, up to the approved “fair market rent” for the area.
(There are other utility assistance programs like Fresh Start and the Universal Service Fund. For more information, visit the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities website or Utilities).
Time limits and extensions
EA benefits are time-limited. During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, these time limits were waived. With the end of New Jersey’s public health emergency declaration, EA cases may now be terminated due to time limits. For most households, assistance is limited to 12 months over the adult recipient’s lifetime. You may qualify for up to six additional months under a hardship extension, or 12 months if you have dependent children.
In limited circumstances, additional EA extensions are available. The county welfare agencies call these extensions “EA for Special Groups.” Emergency Assistance can continue until February 2024 for households that include:
How to apply for an extension
Before a county welfare agency can terminate emergency assistance due to time limits, they must first send a written notice of termination at least 30 days in advance. The notice must include a hardship extension form (the WFNJ-76-A Application form) and an application for an Emergency Assistance (EA) Hardship Extension for Special Groups (the WFNJ-76-B form.) Hardship extensions are evaluated first and EA for Special Groups extensions are evaluated after other hardship extensions are exhausted.
Additional forms may be required to support your extension application. For a permanent disability, you will need a medical provider to complete a Med-1 form, verifying that you have a disability expected to last 12 months or more. If you need an extension to care for a disabled child or other dependent, ask for a DES-5 form. You may qualify for an extension as “chronically unemployable” if you have received at least 36 months of WFNJ benefits and you have barriers that make it difficult for you to obtain employment. Ask for a WFNJ-135 form if you think you may qualify for an extension as chronically unemployable. Also, contact Legal Services if you need help applying for an EA extension.
If you are denied or terminated from EA, or are denied an extension, you have the right to a fair hearing to challenge the decision (see Know Your Welfare Rights!: Appealing a Welfare Decision). A hearing will be held by the Office of Administrative Law. If you already receive EA and you ask for a fair hearing right away, you must ask for “continued EA benefits pending a fair hearing” so that the housing assistance does not stop while you wait for a fair hearing.
If you are not receiving EA when you ask for the hearing, you can ask for an expedited, emergency fair hearing. Emergency fair hearings must be scheduled within three days after the request is made. An initial decision is issued by the administrative law judge no later than one business day following the date of the hearing. Exceptions to that initial decision must be filed with the Division of Family Development no later than one business day following the initial decision. A final agency decision must then be issued no later than three business days following the date that the initial decision is received by the state agency. You can ask for a fair hearing at the county welfare agency or by calling the Fair Hearing Hotline at 1-800-792-9773.
Legal Services advocates can provide legal advice and assistance if you need to apply for WFNJ benefits or Emergency Assistance. Advocates can also provide legal advice and assistance if you need a fair hearing to challenge a county welfare office decision.
This information last reviewed: Mar 24, 2022