Advocates and Christie Administration Disagree About Emergency Assistance and Poverty Numbers
The Senate Legislative Oversight Standing Committee held a public hearing on September 29, 2016 on emergency assistance and safety need programs. The hearing centered around the debate between advocates and service providers working on the front lines and the Christie administration over the number of poor individuals in New Jersey and the need for emergency assistance.
“Funding for the state’s emergency and general assistance programs has long been a point of criticism for social welfare advocates in the state. New Jersey’s welfare system, Work First New Jersey, which manages federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding (the federal welfare program), has not seen an increase in funding in 29 years, leaving the stipend provided to the needy by the state one of the smallest in the nation. At $424 a month for a family of three, the current stipend has about half the buying power it had when the program was first established.”
The Christie Administration maintains that the state has seen a decrease in poverty but that position is not in line with what those working on the front lines to end poverty are seeing.
Everett spoke about critical importance of the state’s Emergency Assistance (EA) program and the work the Ending Homelessness Team does to help communities develop housing crisis response systems.
“In order for these local housing crisis response systems to work, and to actually end homelessness, every part of the system is integral: each partner, provider, funder, stakeholder, and consumer; the whole Continuum of Care.
Our partners across the state, in every community, have related to us just how integral funding for the EA program is to quickly sheltering and housing those experiencing homelessness.
Two major issues caused by recent changes to the EA program are:
Slow admissions to the Emergency Assistance program benefits, and
A reduction in the number of homeless residents being determined eligible for Emergency Assistance housing benefits, but no reduction in need.
Renee Kouibadis, executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, testified that the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) has “implemented a policy change that has driven more people into homelessness,” hoisting up eligibility standards to the point where few people qualify for them.
“With our partners across the state, we affirm that Emergency Assistance is a key resource for helping households experiencing homelessness in New Jersey to quickly end their housing crises,” concluded Everett.
Elizabeth Connolly, Acting Commissioner, New Jersey DHS was scheduled to testify at the hearing but did not attend.