Vainieri Huttle Bill to Extend Emergency Rental Assistance Benefits to Disabled Individuals Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to ensure the continuation of emergency rental assistance for certain disabled individuals or caretakers of individuals with disabilities was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

"We're talking about individuals with extreme hardships who are facing severe challenges," said Vainieri Huttle. "The state should be an active and helpful partner when it comes to ensuring that they have a roof over their heads. This change will hopefully make a big difference in their lives and, at the very least, provide sufficient notice should these benefits change so that they can seek other assistance."

Specifically, the bill (A-2568) would exclude individuals who meet certain criteria from existing time limits on qualifying for emergency assistance benefits.

Currently, the Commissioner of Human Services may provide for an extension of emergency assistance for up to six additional months to no more than 10 percent of single adults and couples without dependent children who are receiving temporary rental assistance under the emergency assistance component of the program, if the commissioner determines that a case of extreme hardship exists. 

The commissioner reviews each such case on a monthly basis during the six-month period and would continue the emergency assistance only if it is determined, based upon the monthly review, that the extreme hardship continues to exist.
This bill approved today would add both extensions and reporting components. 

The commissioner would provide for an extension of emergency assistance to an individual, if the commissioner determines that the individual is:
- the parent or other relative of a disabled child or other disabled dependent who must provide full-time care for the disabled child or other disabled dependent; 
- permanently disabled;
- over 60 years of age; or
- chronically unemployable as defined by regulation of the commissioner.

The commissioner would review each individual's eligibility for emergency assistance every six months and would continue the emergency assistance if it is determined, based upon the review, that the individual continues to meet the established criteria.

The commissioner would require that identifying information for all individuals who receive emergency assistance would be entered into the Foothold Homeless Management Information System, or a similar electronic database as designated by the commissioner. The identifying information would include: 
- individual identifier of the recipient; 
- amount and type of emergency assistance delivered to the recipient; and
- time period in which emergency assistance was provided to the recipient. 

The information would be compiled by the Division of Family Development on an annual basis and submitted to the Legislature no later than April 1 of the current calendar year for expenditures in the prior calendar year.
Recipients of emergency assistance benefits would also be notified, in writing, of any termination or modification of the recipient's emergency assistance benefits at least one month prior to the termination or modification of the recipient's emergency assistance benefits. 

The bill was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee chaired by Vainieri Huttle.