Streamline enrollment into state services, free/low-cost health insurance
Trenton – Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz introduced legislation this week which would assist residents in filing their tax returns and ensure they are aware of state social services they may be eligible for.
“Year after year we consistently see reporting that state programs are underutilized, meaning families around the state are left struggling to make ends meet, all the while they could be receiving benefits to help keep food on the table or their heat on through the winter,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This legislation will not only make it easier for state residents to file their taxes but also get information directly to those who may be eligible for social services and reduce the number of individuals missing out on assistance. Similar programs have seen great success in other states around the country and I am hopeful it will increase enrollment in social services and health insurance here in New Jersey.”
The first bill, S-3251, would establish the ReadyReturn Program in the Treasury’s Division of Taxation, which would automatically provide most residents pre-filled in tax returns based on information the division already receives from employers, which residents could then review and submit.
The division would then share income information and other relevant data with the Departments of Human Services, Health, Community Affairs and Agriculture so they could identify and enroll individuals, including dependents, who may be eligible for certain social service programs administered by the state. The program would aim to harness the state’s existing tax filing process to help low-income residents access essential safety net benefits, such as cash, nutrition, subsidized child care and heating assistance.
The second bill, S-3238, would require the Department of Banking and Insurance to establish the New Jersey Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program, which would use tax return data to identify individuals who are in need of health insurance and are interested in obtaining minimum essential coverage. The bill would allow the state to connect them with information on their eligibility for free or low-cost health insurance.
This innovative approach helped connect 18,000 taxpayers in Maryland to health insurance affordability information in the program’s first year. New Jersey had approximately 692,000 uninsured residents in 2019 and those numbers are expected to increase with job losses resulting from the pandemic. This bill will get critical information to residents to ensure they can secure the health insurance they need during this public health crisis.