With moods maybe provoked by mask politics danging over the debate, Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) went toe-to-toe this afternoon over S-2340, spearheaded by Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-34), who took over the floor with an impassioned argument.
“We believe this bill is the answer for many struggling to keep a roof over their heads,” Timberlake argued. “This bill will provide uniform mortage relief.”
From the bill itself: as amended, S-2340 would provide protections to certain homeowners, tenants, and landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency period. Under the bill, “emergency period” means the period during which a public health emergency exists as declared by the Governor in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020, as extended, and the 60 days following the conclusion of this period.
“We have to vote yes on this bill,” said an impassioned Timberlake. “It’s about humanity.”
The East Orange-based Assemblywoman said opponents of the bill quietly speak for corporate landowners.
S-2340 ultimately passed, 46-22-3, but not some fiery exchanges.
The bill provides that, during the emergency period, a creditor is required to grant a mortgage forbearance to an impacted homeowner if the impacted homeowner submits a written request to the mortgage servicer affirming the following:
(1) the impacted homeowner has suffered a substantial reduction of income resulting from COVID-19 or the Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency declared in response thereto, including a financial hardship from a reduction in hours or loss of employment, or increased costs incurred in necessary child care resulting from the closure of schools or caring for family members who are ill due to COVID-19 or quarantined due to a suspected exposure to COVID-19, or for funeral costs due to COVID-19;
(2) the gross household income of the homeowner does not exceed 150 percent of the area median income after hardship, unless this requirement for eligibility is waived by the mortgage lender; and
(3) the impacted homeowner’s bank accounts collectively contain less than six months’ reserves of the impacted homeowner’s gross household income for 2019.
Upon receipt of a request for a mortgage forbearance from an impacted homeowner, the bill requires a creditor to provide to the impacted homeowner with a mortgage forbearance and confirmation of that forbearance in writing.
The minimum initial mortgage forbearance period of an impacted homeowner is to be 90 days. An impacted homeowner may request, and is to be granted, a subsequent forbearance period of at minimum 90 days, for a total of at minimum 180 days. Fees, penalties, or interest, including attorney’s fees, shall not be assessed or accrue during and as a result of a mortgage forbearance.
Webber wanted to quiz Timberlake on the bill’s impacts, prompting Coughlin to intervene.
“If you want to ask her a question about the bill, ask her a question about the bill,” said the speaker.
“The bill will regulate the very relationships I’m talking about,” said Webber, his mask dangling from one ear, after Coughlin had earlier urged assemblypeople to keep their masks on at all times.
Timberlake kept on target.
“Right now our state is going through a crisis none of us have ever experienced. Residents are concerned and worried about how they’re going to pay their [rents],’ she said. “This bill will save the state millions of taxpayer dollars. We could save millions in the costs of shelters and food insecurities. It’s harder to keep and even get a job [when you’re homeless].
“This is a judgment day bill,” the assemblywoman added. “The people of this state are watching and judging.”
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) picked up Webber’s frustration over the bill, especially concerned over the legislation negatively impacing small landlords.
“There is no break-out definition of landlord in the bill,” Timberlake said.
The Democratic and Republican assemblywoman tangled for an extended period of time. At one point, Schepisi jabbed at Timberlake for “the leeway” extended her to make her case for the bill in a prolonged speech.
“It sure was, and it answered a lot of questions you have,” the East Orange-based assemblywoman countered.