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Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer)

The bill provides a minimal Increase in Home Energy Assistance to Prevent Low-Income Families from Losing Additional Food Stamp Benefits

TRENTON — Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner and Senator Joseph  F. Vitale to prevent painful cuts in food assistance for poor and working class families in New Jersey cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.

The bill, S-1893, establishes a $21 minimum in home energy assistance to help ensure that tens of thousands of New Jersey SNAP households won’t see a loss in food stamp benefits.

Without the increase in heating assistance, these households will lose on average an extra $90 per month in food stamp benefits when the new income guidelines — part of the federal Farm Bill signed into law in February — become effective. The new guidelines increase the level of heating assistance as a criterion in food stamp benefits.

“Too many of our low-income New Jersey families are already struggling to pay the bare essentials, like heat and food,” said Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon).  “We need to preserve the safety net to help our most vulnerable residents meet the nutritional needs. Ninety dollars per month in nutrition benefits is a huge loss for low-income individuals and families, especially in a state as costly to live in as New Jersey.”

“New Jersey’s economic recovery is moving very slow, and many families are having trouble making ends meet,” said Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Vitale (D-Middlesex). “The investment could return million in federal dollars to New Jersey and more in terms of economic activity.”

At least seven states, including Pennsylvania and New York, have already committed to providing the additional $20 in benefits needed to allow low-income households to continue qualifying for extra food stamps.

The bill cleared the committee by a 7-0 vote.

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