Trenton – In an effort to bring New Jersey public assistance in line with federal work requirements, legislation sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz, which would enhance the WorkFirst New Jersey Program, advanced from the Senate Health Committee today.
“These changes will make WorkFirst New Jersey more accessible and allow it to better serve our most vulnerable residents,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “The reforms will bring us in line with federal work requirements, providing a greater understanding of the realities of working families and the difficult decision of whether to pay more for childcare or work fewer hours. I am hopeful, once enacted, this legislation will provide much-needed relief to many in our communities.”
The bill, S-2956, would amend the stated purpose of 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 bill was released from committee by a vote of 8-0.