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Ruiz Introduces Legislation to Improve WorkFirst New Jersey, SNAP, WIC

Trenton – Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz is pushing a three-bill package to modernize state assistance programs and streamline services to better serve low income New Jerseyans.

“It is critical that our public assistance programs continue to evolve to meet the needs of our residents and adapt to new technologies,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “These changes will make WorkFirst New Jersey, SNAP and WIC more accessible and allow them to better serve our most vulnerable individuals, families and children.

“The reforms to WorkFirst New Jersey will bring us in line with federal requirements, while the improvements to SNAP and WIC will modernize the programs, giving more flexibility to beneficiaries to shop in a way that works for them. By allowing recipients to not only purchase groceries online, but also use their allotment to cover delivery charges we can make it even easier for parents to get the food they need to feed their families. I look forward to seeing these measures move through the legislature and am hopeful, once enacted, they will provide much needed relief to many in our communities.”

The first bill, S-2956, would improve and expand the Work First New Jersey Program, emphasizing the goal of lifting individuals, families and children out of poverty. The bill provides that when determining whether good cause exists to excuse noncompliance with program requirements, it should consider the recipient’s health, safety, family needs, and financial situation.

In addition, the bill reduces the hourly work requirement for all recipients and provides that individuals with children under six years of age only need to work 20 hours per week, aligning our work requirements with those of the federal government. Under the bill, a parent or relative caring for a child under one year of age may be temporarily excused from any work requirements. Currently, parents or guardians are only excused from work requirements for three months after the birth of a child.

The second bill, S-2955, would permit individuals who receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their funds to pay for the delivery charge for home delivery of SNAP-eligible groceries.

The final bill, S-2954, would direct the Department of Health to establish an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), similar to the SNAP EBT cards. The bill would also allow participants to purchase food through online vendors and use WIC funds to cover home delivery costs.

The bill would also allow WIC recipients to utilize their benefits over multiple transactions. Currently, recipients must expend the entire value of their WIC check or voucher in a single transaction.