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Vitale-Rice Bill To Increase Transition Period For Welfare Families Receives Final Legislative Approval

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Ronald L. Rice which would revise earned income allowances under the Work First New Jersey welfare program to provide for a longer transition period from public assistance was unanimously approved by the Senate today by a vote of 37-0, receiving final legislative approval.

“Work First New Jersey is the State’s answer to get families on public assistance to be self-sufficient,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “However, we need to recognize that many of the families receiving assistance from the State are going to be getting into the work force on the lower-end of the wage spectrum, and that we need to provide transitional support to keep them from re-enrolling in public assistance. This bill expands the State support we provide to New Jersey’s working poor, to help them support themselves in the future.”

“We’ve been able to help many folks pull themselves out of poverty through Work First New Jersey,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “But the transition from welfare to work doesn’t happen overnight. For those people who are following the employment standards and trying to move off the rolls of welfare, we need to give them enough support to do so.”

The bill, S-2706, would revise the earned income disregards under Work First New Jersey, which are used to determine benefit eligibility and amount for employees still receiving State assistance from the New Jersey Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Under the current regulations, New Jersey disregards one hundred percent of the recipient’s income in the first month of employment, and fifty percent of the income in every month thereafter, until the person’s income disqualifies them for continued assistance. The bill proposes that the State disregard 75 percent of the earned income in the 2nd through 7th months for people employed more than 20 hours a week, giving welfare recipients six months of increased State support to help them transition off public assistance. The bill also increases financial sanctions already imposed on people who fail to comply with work or other requirements outlined under Work First New Jersey without good cause.

“Without a solid financial base, welfare recipients will never transition off of public assistance,” said Senator Vitale. “The ultimate goal of any welfare program is to help people achieve self-sufficiency, and by expanding transitional aid, we can give people a better chance to succeed.”

“A part-time, low-wage job isn’t enough to support a family and meet the high cost of living in New Jersey,” said Senator Rice. “By giving our working poor more transitional assistance, we’re giving them an opportunity to budget their funds and move off of welfare. New Jersey’s poor citizens need our help to get back on their feet, and a longer transition from welfare to work will being forever dependent on State assistance.”

The bill was also approved by the Assembly earlier today by a vote of 75-3, with one abstention. It now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.