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NJ 211 Newsletter - Fall 2021

Ride United Transports 2,700+ After Ida

 A program called Ride United, which resulted from a partnership between United Way Worldwide, NJ 211 and Lyft, grew dramatically this September in response to the destruction caused by Tropical Storm Ida. Launched in 2018, Ride United was originally a program designed

Flooded Car

to help people in need of short-term transportation assistance. With it, people were able to get to a job interview they might otherwise have missed, avail themselves of an educational opportunity, make a much needed visit to a food pantry, etc. When the pandemic hit and vaccines became available, the program grew to offer no-cost transportation to and from vaccination sites.

After Ida left many in our state stranded because they lost their vehicle in the storm, the program morphed again to meet the immediate transportation needs. This time both Lyft and Uber contributed in-kind rides to the Ride United Tropical Storm Ida Program. The NJ 211 texting platform made it very easy for people to request and receive rides. Over 2,500 eligible NJ residents were able to access free or discounted transportation from September 8-22. The program was so successful it reopened on October 13 as the NJ Rideshare Program with support from the State of New Jersey. ”Partnerships like this emphasize the tremendous value of private, non-profit, and government organizations working together after a disaster to address essential needs,” explains executive director Melissa Acree.

 Recovery from Ida is ongoing. A state of disaster has been declared in 12 New Jersey counties and NJ 211 is doing all that it can to keep people informed of programs and services that can help as they rebuild. “We are in direct contact with state and local government officials and NJ 211 is an active member of NJ VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) which enables the organization to share news of resources as soon as they become available,” Melissa says. Information like this can be found on the organization’s website and is shared with anyone who dials 211 looking for assistance. For more transportation resources, see our transportation page.

If you need help with transportation due to damages caused by Tropical Storm Ida and have been impacted by COVID text NJIDARIDE to 898-211.

Eviction Moratorium Still in Place

While the governor has declared an end to the public health emergency, the moratorium on eviction is still in place. According to New Jersey’s official Covid-19 website, “If you live in a New Jersey household with income below 120% of your county's Area Median Income, you are permanently protected from eviction or removal at any time for nonpayment of rent, habitual late payment of rent, or failure to accept a rent increase that accrued from March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021. 

Eviction Notice

Depending on your household's income level and specific circumstances, you may also be eligible for protection from eviction or removal through December 31, 2021, and other assistance and services. These protections are not affected by the Supreme Court's decision on the CDC's eviction moratorium.”  To be protected from eviction, you must fill out a form that self-certifies your eligibility for eviction protection and once certified, you must send the form to your landlord. Start this process now. Self-certify here  or call 609.490.4550 for assistance.

Many counties and municipalities still have funds available for rental arrears as well. Visit the NJ 211 COVID-19 Housing Assistance page for up-to-date rental assistance resources and valuable information regarding evictions.

Homeowners who have been unable to pay their mortgages due to Covid-19 are also protected from foreclosure until November 15, 2021. Additional protections have been agreed to by many banks including the elimination of late fees on missed payments (up to 90 days). Banks have also been asked to add forbearance payments to the end of the loan period rather than requiring a lump sum payment after the 90 day grace period. You must call your bank to learn about their policies. Learn more about protections for homeowners.

Utility Assistance Eases Financial Burdens

This year the Department of Community Affairs increased the income limits on government-funded utility assistance programs in an effort to assist more residents and combat the various hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there are several utility assistance programs available in our state, the two most popular programs are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Universal Service Fund (USF). LIHEAP is a federally funded program that assists eligible households with heating costs including natural gas, electricity, oil, propane, and kerosene. USF lowers the costs of natural gas and electricity.

During the 2020-2021 heating season, a household's income had to be at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to be eligible for USF and 200% of the FPL for LIHEAP. The 2021-2022 heating season limits jumped significantly to 400% of the FPL for USF and 60% of the State Median Income (SMI) for LIHEAP. Although the percentage for LIHEAP looks as though it decreased, it is now being calculated from the State Median Income, which is higher in New Jersey compared to other states. This increase is significant and crucial to many New Jersey residents as it will help ease their financial burdens while they return to work and school and catch up on other essential expenses, such as rent. See the chart below for comparisons. The columns in blue reflect last year’s eligibility limits, while the yellow columns reflect the increased financial eligibility limits for this year. The application period for these programs opened on October 1. Learn more about these and other utility assistance programs here.

Updated Income Guidelines

Household Size

Federal Poverty Level

Last yr/this yr

Last Season’s limits for USF (185% of FPL)

This Season’s limits for USF (400% of FPL)

Last Season’s limits for LIHEAP (200% of FPL)

This Season’s limits for LIHEAP (60% of SMI)

1

$12,760/$12,880

$23,606

$51,520

$25,520

$40,181

2

$17,240/$17,420

$31,894

$69,680

$34,480

$52,545

3

$21,720/$21,960

$40,182

$87,840

$43,440

$64,908

4

$26,200/$26,500

$48,470

$106,000

$52,400

$77,272

5

$30,680/$31,040

$56,758

$124,160

$61,360

$89,635

6

$35,160/$35,580

$65,046

$142,320

$70,320

$101,99

7

$39,640/$40,120

$73,334

$160,480

$79,280

$104,317

Let Us Be a Resource for You

The decision to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should be an easy one.  However, fear resulting from the rapid development of the vaccine and confusing, often conflicting information, has made it difficult to engage those most important to reach. 

It’s natural to wonder if brand new vaccines developed at unprecedented speed, are effective and safe to take.  Making sure that the most up-to-date and accurate information is easily accessed is why NJ 211 and the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern NJ are working together. 

Vaccine Banner

Here’s what we want you to know:

  • Overall effectiveness ranges from 70% to 95%. That’s well above the average effectiveness of the flu vaccine, for example.
  • Side effects have been minor. And a side effect or reaction isn’t necessarily all bad; it may indicate that the body is building protection against the virus.
  • The vaccine can’t cause COVID-19 because no live SARS-CoV-2 virus is used.  
  • The vaccines are safe for people with underlying medical conditions.  They are even safe for pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy.  Recent studies suggest the vaccine may also offer some protection for babies. 

Sure, there are pros and cons to any new medical treatment. But there are also consequences to declining treatment.  COVID-19 has serious, life-threatening complications and there is no way of knowing how it will affect any one individual or family.

Our message is clear.  Safeguard your health and well-being.  Vaccinate against COVID-19.  It’s the safer choice.

For more information about local vaccination sites or questions about the safety of the COVID 19 vaccination, let 2-1-1 be a resource for you.  Visit nj211.org.

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