Assemblywoman speaks about People’s Bill at virtual meeting

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — Continuing the momentum from Mayor Ted Green’s May 7 virtual town hall meeting, which drew in approximately 50,000 views via Facebook Live, his May 14 meeting welcomed New Jersey General Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake and Rutgers University Student Health and Wellness Executive Director Anice Thomas as the meeting’s special guests.

Held on Facebook Live, this week’s meeting amassed nearly 12,000 viewers.

Timberlake led the evening by discussing the People’s Bill, which outlines support for home tenants and owners.

“This is a bill that we are calling the People’s Bill,” Timberlake said. “It’s a piece of legislation put together with a coalition of housing experts and leaders throughout the state, and what it addresses is doing uniformed mortgage forbearance as well as doing a rent pause for renters. We have got to start looking at the issue of housing. We cannot be renters versus owners. You cannot have owners succeed unless renters are also succeeding and vice versa. So, the piece of legislation addresses the plight of both. Nearly half of America is living paycheck to paycheck, and even more people do not have an emergency fund.

“Now, you are allowed to use your security deposit to pay a month’s rent, and, during this time of COVID, there cannot be any foreclosure activity, nor can there be evictions,” Timberlake continued. “With this bill, if someone has a loss of income, they can work with their landlord to do a rent pause and get an agreement on a payment plan. The uniform mortgage forbearance is also important for the owners, because right now, our governor has done an excellent job with striking a deal with over 40 lenders to do a forbearance.”

According to Timberlake, with a forbearance, residents can call their bank, explain their coronavirus hardship and request a hold on monthly payments. The money owed will be placed on the back end of the loan, depending on how long residents are asking for the extension.

In addition, a request for a rent pause or participation in mortgage forbearance will not affect a person’s credit.

Meanwhile, Thomas spoke about identifying mental illness, the importance of mental health, grief and how to stay connected.

“We are experiencing the devastating effects of the pandemic,” Thomas said. “Many people are experiencing a mental health crisis, and, for some of us, it could be the first time that they’re having difficulty with mental and emotional distress. For others who’ve had symptoms in the past, what’s happening now is just exacerbating those symptoms. So, I think as a community, it’s incredibly important for us to recognize that we are all being challenged.”

Thomas suggested paying close attention to one’s emotions and behaviors.

“We have to pay attention to what’s happening inside of us, our family members, and remember to be kind to ourselves. If our loved ones are behaving in a way that is irritable or sad, that’s appropriate; I think we must pay particular attention to if those feelings become problematic and if they start to impact our functioning,” she said.

According to Thomas, it makes sense to be stressed. But if the stress is preventing sleep, changing appetite, or causing isolation from loved ones and abnormal functioning, it’s time to seek support and a confidant.