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(The Center Square) — More than 1.7 million New Jersey homeowners and renters have applied for rebates under a new state program aimed at offsetting rising local property taxes, according to Gov. Phil Murphy's administration.

The ANCHOR (Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters) tax relief program, which was approved by Gov. Phil Murphy as part of his fiscal year 2023 budget, is aimed at blunting the impact of local property taxes in a state which has the highest burden in the nation. 

In a statement, Murphy said tax rebates are aimed at undoing years of property tax increases, and mean hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents are "now better positioned to pursue their own American Dream, a pursuit that has been too often hindered by high costs of living and affordability constraints."

The program is open to homeowners and renters who lived in their primary residences on Oct. 1, 2019, according to the state Division of Taxation. To be eligible, applicants must file or be exempt from New Jersey income taxes.

The rebates range from $1,000 for homeowners who earned between $150,000 and $250,000 in 2019 and $1,500 for homeowners who earned up to $150,000 in 2019.

Renters who earned up to $150,000 in 2019 may be eligible for a $450 rebate, under the program. 

The payments are expected to be released this spring, either by check or direct deposit, and won't be subject to federal or state income tax, the Murphy administration says. 

The program replaces New Jersey’s former property tax relief program, Homestead, which provided 470,000 homeowners with an average of $626 per eligible household. 

Renters weren't eligible for tax breaks under the Homestead program, but the ANCHOR program acknowledges rents are often raised to offset rising property taxes.

New Jersey has one of the highest property tax burdens in the nation, with the highest effective rate on owner-occupied property at 2.21% in 2020, according to the Tax Foundation's latest property tax report. 

Three counties in the state — Bergen, Essex, and Union — have the highest median property tax payments in the nation, with bills exceeding $10,000, the report noted. 

New Jersey homeowners paid an average of $9,112 in property taxes in 2020, up from $8,953 in 2019, according to data from the state Department of Community Affairs.

The deadline for the ANCHOR program, which was initially Dec. 31, has been extended several times amid concerns eligible residents weren't aware of the tax rebates. The final deadline was Feb. 28. 

New Jersey officials aggressively promoted the new program with a barrage of print, TV and billboard advertising, in-person outreach, and social media. 

In a statement, State Treasurer Maher Muoio said those efforts appear to have paid off, citing the "huge number" of eligible taxpayers who have applied for the program.  

"This is an enormous step in our continuing efforts to ensure New Jersey remains affordable for those who call our state home," he said.