Turner – We Mustn’t Abandon The Neediest Among Us

TRENTON – Citing reports that say more children and families live below the federal poverty line this year than last year, Senator Shirley K. Turner today called for greater assistance for children and working families struggling to make ends meet.

“Fewer people may be on welfare, but it’s plain to see that we’re not helping them get out of poverty,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Between the sad fact that federal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) grants have stayed the same for the last twenty years and the unfortunate truth that the federal poverty line is in no way representative of the minimal cost of living in New Jersey, we are failing these families.”

Senator Turner pointed to a $9 million reduction in TANF funding for the proposed FY08 Budget during today’s Senate Budget hearing with the Department of Human Services.

“If this reduction is due to the success of the Work First program, then it may very well be laudable,” said Senator Turner. “But in light of recent reports, I am concerned about whether we are simply pushing people out of the program and into an equally difficult circumstance, living in poverty without adequate support services.”

New Jersey’s welfare program, Work First, administers the TANF program. Under the program, adults with dependent minors are eligible for only five total years of Work First assistance.

“In a state as wealthy as ours, we need to be doing more to help those who need that help the most,” explained Senator Turner. “We need to take a holistic approach to tackling this problem by providing housing grants, education and training and child care that will help parents and families to be become truly self-sufficient rather than waiting for them to run out the clock.”

Senator Turner said she will be looking for ways to provide additional funding to programs that assist needy families rise above the poverty line as the budget process moves forward.

“My hope is that over the coming years, we will continue to see Work First NJ numbers go down, but we will only be successful if the number of New Jersey families in living in poverty goes down at an even greater rate,” added Senator Turner.