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Rice-Vitale Bill To Create Monitoring, Oversight Of Welfare Emergency Placement Advances

Measure Would Establish Database of Motels and Hotels used for Emergency Assistance Placements, Annual Inspection of Facilities

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Joseph F. Vitale which would create better monitoring and oversight of welfare emergency placement in order to promote a more centralized, coordinated approach to serving homeless New Jerseyans was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 8-0 with one abstention.

“We’ve seen New Jersey residents throughout the State facing alarming rates of severe poverty and homelessness, while the unemployment rate remains above the national average,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex, and a member of the health committee. “There’s more demand than ever for emergency assistance programs that provide services and shelter for people in need, but we have to make sure that emergency assistance shelters meet basic safety standards, and that recipients of emergency placement have access to other services that can benefit them. This bill would create a system of monitoring welfare emergency placement, and would coordinate services for homeless New Jerseyans.”

The bill, S-1401, would create a mechanism for increased monitoring and oversight of the motels and hotels used for emergency assistance placements. Under the bill, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) would create and maintain a centralized database of the hotels and motels used for emergency placement, and would require county welfare agency staff to visit these emergency placement recipients at least once every three months to assess their needs, and provide information on hazardous living conditions back to DCA. The bill would also require DCA to inspect these facilities once every year – as opposed to once every five years as prescribed under current law for other hotels and multiple dwellings – to report unsafe or unsanitary conditions back to the State in order to take appropriate action to protect emergency assistance recipients.

Finally, the bill would require a mobile health van to provide mobile outreach and access to health care services for people receiving emergency assistance services, and that county welfare agencies provide a schedule for outreach dates to the emergency assistance community and other recipients of social services or emergency shelter services within the designated service areas of the mobile health van.

“Particularly as State residents deal with the effects of a stagnant job market, we have to create a safety net which doesn’t allow people to fall through the cracks,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “We’ve seen instances in the past in which New Jerseyans in welfare motels and hotels have been forced to live in deplorable conditions with little oversight from the State. This bill is about correcting the mistakes of the past, creating an accountability system for emergency welfare shelters, and helping to bring services and programs for homeless New Jerseyans where they can do the most good.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration before going to the full Senate for approval.