CAMDEN – A bill co-sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which permits county governments to create trust funds in order to provide assistance to homeless New Jerseyans living within the county was signed into law yesterday by Governor Corzine.
“At a time of nearly unprecedented economic crisis, New Jerseyans are finding themselves unable to keep their heads above water, and many require a helping hand just to get by,” said Senator Vitale, D-Woodbridge, and Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “This new law extends that helping hand, providing needed funding for social services programs specifically intended to help the State’s homeless citizens. We cannot turn our backs on State residents struggling to make ends meet, and this law ensures that we have the resources to help when our help is needed the most.”
Under the bill, S-2354, county boards of freeholders are authorized to adopt a resolution imposing a $3 surcharge on all documents recorded by county officials. The money collected through these surcharges would be deposited in a trust fund, and could only be used for providing services including rental assistance, housing project construction and rehabilitation, and for social services to assist the homeless population within the county. Any monies not utilized within four years will be transferred to the Department of Community Affairs, which will then contract with a community-based organization within the respective county to aid the homeless living within the county.
Counties that create the Homelessness Trust Funds will be required to provide information concerning the usage of funds to the State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
“Right now, existing municipal and non-profit social services agencies are doing the best they can on limited resources to meet the needs of a growing homeless population,” said Senator Vitale. “The State of New Jersey and the 21 counties need to do more than we have in the past to help meet the growing demand for assistance, and we need to work with the agencies on the front lines to create a seamless safety net. Through this legislation, we’re meeting our responsibility as a government to protect the most vulnerable and offering a small measure of compassion in tough economic times.”
The bill was approved by both Houses of the Legislature in June.