WorkFirst NJ Cash Assistance Benefits Increasing 20 Percent
On September 4, 2019, New Jersey’s Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson announced an increase in WorkFirst NJ cash assistance benefits. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and General Assistance benefits will increase by 20 percent.
“The Anti-Poverty Network is grateful for the recognition of Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Coughlin and the New Jersey Department of Human Services that our stagnant Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefit level was sorely inadequate for families to climb out of poverty,” said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey.
“After the first benefit increase in 30 years last year, an additional 20 percent increase for families this year is a much needed boost so that more children in poverty will receive assistance and their parents can access work activities and supports needed to thrive in our state become independent.”
The Anti-Poverty Network was one of the 37 sponsoring partners of the 2019 Congressional Reception held in July in Washington, D.C.
NJCounts 2019 found 8,864 men, women and children, in 6,748 households, experienced homelessness across New Jersey. NJCounts 2019 counted individuals who were homeless on the night of January 22, 2019. Monarch Housing Associates coordinates NJCounts and recently released the NJCounts 2019 report.
The increase to the WorkFirst NJ and General Assistance program benefits may help both working families experiencing homelessness achieve the stability they need to afford their own homes and avoid homelessness and also assist struggling families at risk of homelessness.
WorkFirst NJ provides temporary cash assistance and support services to families through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. General Assistance provides temporary cash assistance and support services to individuals and couples in need with no dependent children. These support services include emergency housing assistance; temporary utility, rental or mortgage assistance; job training; mental health and addictions support; and counseling.
The state budget for this fiscal year includes the WorkFirst increase. The New Jersey State legislature approved the budget and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the budget into law.
“The Murphy Administration is committed to helping families get on the strongest possible financial footing,” Commissioner Johnson said. “Providing increased income assistance to our neighbors in need is the right approach. “
Under this year’s increase to the WorkFirst NJ cash assistance benefit program, a family of three will see their maximum benefits payment increase to $559/month from $466/month. An individual receiving General Assistance benefits will see their maximum benefit payment increase to $185/month from $154/month.
NJCounts 2019 found that the most common source of income amongst homeless persons was Social Security Insurance (SSI) (15%), followed by work income/wage (12.8%) and general/public assistance/welfare (12.1%). While benefits provided through income and cash assistance support programs are often not enough to solely assist families in affording rent, the increase to to both WorkFirst and General Assistance programs is a positive step towards helping both families and indivduals in New Jersey to both move out of homelessness and also prevent homelessness.
“Unfortunately, New Jersey continues to be one of the most expensive states to live in. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) Out of Reach report, NJ is the 6th most expensive state in the nation,” said Taiisa Kelly at the time of the NJCounts 2019 report release in July 2019. “A family renting a 2-bedroom apartment would have to earn $28.86 per hour in order to afford an apartment within the state.”
Additionally, the monthly rent at 30% of New Jersey’s area median income, is $743, a month.
The TANF increase took effect August 1, and the General Assistance increase took effect September 1. Both increases will be retroactive to July 1.
Residents can apply for WorkFirst NJ benefits at their county Board of Social Services or clicking here.