Office of the State Comptroller letter highlights absence of eligibility documentation for emergency rental assistance program administered by Department of Community Affairs

OSC review reveals missing documentation in majority of cases

TRENTON – The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) released a letter to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) regarding the Department’s failure to document and maintain documentation of eligibility in the first round of its rental assistance program, which may have exposed the program to fraud, waste and abuse. DCA’s first round of rental assistance was funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF).

OSC’s COVID-19 Compliance and Oversight Project initiated its review of DCA’s rental assistance program when the Department failed to submit documentation to its Integrity Monitor in a timely manner. Integrity Monitors are tasked with monitoring for fraud, waste, and abuse of federal recovery funds and preparing quarterly reports for OSC and others that are posted online.

OSC’s review revealed that DCA relied on self-certification for many of its eligibility requirements, including households making an income below a certain threshold, seeing a reduction in their income due to COVID-19, and proof that they live in New Jersey. Self-certifications are statements that applicants sign attesting that they meet qualifications instead of submitting documents like bank statements, leases, etc.

Still, in many cases, even the self-certifications were missing from applicant files. OSC’s review of a sample of files found that 42 out of 60 applicant files were missing documentation of at least one criterion, 22 were missing two or more criteria, and one applicant had almost no documentation at all. 

OSC also found inconsistency in program policies and confusion as to federal guidance applicable to the program. OSC highlights these issues so they may be avoided in subsequent emergency rental assistance programs administered by DCA.

OSC recommends that for future emergency rental assistance programs, DCA should ensure clear program policies and procedures, maintain proper documentation to support applicant eligibility, and implement strategies to validate applicant information and monitor for potential fraud. OSC also highlights the importance of responding to Integrity Monitors in a timely manner and submitting requested documentation by agreed-upon deadlines.

DCA was provided an opportunity to respond to the findings and recommendations in OSC’s letter. DCA’s response notes that it intends to abide by U.S. Treasury regulations and best practices to the best of its ability.

To report government fraud, waste, mismanagement or corruption, including of federal COVID-19 recovery funds, file a complaint with OSC or call 1-855-OSC-TIPS.

The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) is an independent State agency that works to make government in New Jersey more efficient, transparent and accountable. OSC is tasked with examining all aspects of government expenditures, conducts audits and investigations of government agencies throughout New Jersey, reviews government contracts, and works to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in Medicaid.

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