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Measure To Provide An Additional $15 Million In Rent Assistance To Working Families Gets Final Legislative Approval

TRENTON – Senators Shirley K. Turner and Ronald L. Rice hailed the final passage of their bill by the Assembly today to appropriate an additional $15 million to bolster low-income rental assistance programs that were devastated by Bush budget cuts.

“For so many New Jersey families, the first step to realizing the American dream is finding a permanent home they can afford,” Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “For many of our poor families, it is difficult to find and keep a quality job, concentrate on schoolwork and maintain their personal health without a safe and permanent home. The myriad of ways the State supports its residents are vastly more effective when the recipient has a home of their own.”

The bill that began the program, S-357, appropriated $10 million for the establishment of a State rental assistance program for low income individuals or households, similar to the federal Section 8 program. The program will be administered by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). These rental assistance grants will go to households that are eligible for Section 8 vouchers but do not receive them due to a lack of federal funds. Under the bill, assistance to an individual or household under the State program would be terminated upon the award of federal Section 8 rental assistance to that same individual or household.

The new bill, S-2067, adds an additional $15 million to the program for the coming year. The committee also amended it to include a provision that all non-senior, non-disabled recipients of the grants would be required to take advantage of workforce training available through their local One-Stop Career Counseling Center.

“As the cost of living in New Jersey increases, so does the waiting list for those who need housing assistance,” said Senator Rice D-Essex and Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. “When the federal government made cuts to the federal housing assistance program, many living in the urban communities were faced with the fear of losing their homes. The additional funding is necessary in order to provide assistance to those who are eligible for Section 8 vouchers but did not receive them due to federal budget cuts.”

Senator Rice also noted that as many as 100,000 New Jersey residents are on the Section 8 waiting list and are of every race and creed and can be found in towns throughout New Jersey. The $25 million will help close to 2,000 people get off the waiting list and into a safe, clean apartment.

“It has been almost a year since I introduced the original legislation to create this program. In that time, we have found $25 million in a very tight budget to support working families’ efforts to get off the street. During that same time, what has the Bush Administration done to help those in need? They have done less than nothing. In fact they have made the situation worse through numerous cuts to federal housing programs. New Jersey can only do so much on its own before the federal government has to wake up and realize that it is harming hardworking Americans,” added Senator Turner.

S-2067 passed the Assembly by a vote of 57-12. It now goes to Governor Codey for his signature.

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