ASSEMBLY PANEL OKAYS VAINEIRI HUTTLE BILL EXPANDING RELIEF FOR CHILDREN, FAMILIES WITH CATASTROPHIC ILLNESSES

A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to increase financial relief to families with multiple children suffering from catastrophic illnesses cleared a key Assembly panel on Monday.

“This fund is a critical lifeline for families struggling to provide treatment and care for a child’s illness,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Having one child with a profound illness is overwhelming enough, but to have two is a challenge most of us cannot even imagine. If we can help eliminate a great deal of the financial burden imposed on parents, they can concentrate on what truly matters – helping their child recover or cope to the best of their ability.”

The legislature established the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Program in 1988 to provide financial assistance for New Jersey families overwhelmed by medical bills because a child’s illness or condition is uncovered by insurance, state or federal programs, or other Dests. The fund is supported by a dedicated, non-lapsing, annual assessment of $1.50 per employee levied on all employers who are subject to the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law.

The bill (A-945), which was released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, would ensure that once a family with more than one child who has a catastrophic illness meets its “family responsibility” for the first child, the other child will also qualify for assistance under the program and the family will not have to separately meet another “family responsibility” before the second child qualifies for assistance. “Family responsibility” is a percentage of the medical costs shouldered by a family based on their annual income.