Trenton – The leaders of the Senate Democratic Majority issued the following statements today reacting to the Governor’s veto of legislation, S-1965, that would have extended emergency assistance benefits for the homeless:
“This is emergency assistance that is intended to help those who are living on the edge,” said Senator Joe Vitale, (D-Middlesex). “They are vulnerable to homelessness, suffering from addiction or experiencing mental health problems. They should not be left to fend for themselves against the harsh conditions of life on the streets.”
“I am disappointed and deeply concerned that we have failed those in need today,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Those who are experiencing hard times need a helping hand and the assistance of others. It can make the difference in their ability to overcome the challenges in their lives and live with dignity.”
“We have a vital responsibility to our most vulnerable population,” said Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz, (D-Essex). “The main focus of government should be to foster opportunities creating safety nets in times of crisis.”
“The bitter cold of the winter has set in, as the shelters in our urban centers ramp up their services and prepare to take in as many people as possible, we should be looking for ways we can help them,” said Senator Sandra Cunningham, (D-Hudson). “This bill should not have been vetoed. These are the most vulnerable people in our state, at their most dangerous time of the year. They need assistance now more than ever.”
“The cut-off limit and lifetime limits are arbitrary and senseless,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex/Union/Somerset). “Those who are vulnerable often go through cycles of homelessness. They shouldn’t be denied the help they need if they experience a reoccurrence of the problems in their lives.”
The vetoed legislation would have overturned the current lifetime cap on Emergency Assistance benefits for the homeless to allow the State to provide assistance for up to 18 months within any seven-year period. Emergency Assistance provides tenant-based and project-based rental assistance grants to prevent individuals from becoming homeless. These programs help pay for living necessities such as rent or utility security deposits, home heating fuel or past due rents and mortgages, or utility debts.
The bill had been approved 35-0 by the Senate and 70-9 by the Assembly.