Would Permit Housing Allowances as Income, Direct Adjutant General to Enter Agreements with Legal Services Organizations
As part of a concerted effort in the Legislature to assist the military men and women who have sacrificed and served our nation, two measures to help New Jersey veterans have cleared both houses, with final legislative approval given by the Assembly.
The first measure (A-3841), approved 76-0 and designated as the Securing Electronic Records for Veterans Ease (SERVE) Act, would require landlords to count federal military or veteran housing allowances as income when determining a prospective tenant who is a military service member or veteran. It is sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato (D-Atlantic), Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) and Carol Murphy (D-Burlington).
“The benefit of this bill is that it will help veterans secure rental housing,” said Armato. “It is also beneficial to those military service members or veterans who are full-time students who often have limited or no income.”
“Our veterans have made so many sacrifices for our country,” said Mazzeo. “We should always look for ways to make their lives easier. They have earned and deserve such consideration.”
“Our nation and our state must continuously show our veterans that they are appreciated,” said Murphy. “This country is better, safer and freer because of our military. As a nation, we owe them a tremendous debt.”
Passed 75-0, the second measure (A-4022) amends the existing statute of the New Jersey Homeless Veterans Grant Program. It directs the Adjutant General of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs, funds permitting, to enter into agreements with public or private entities for the purpose of funding a portion of the legal services that these entities provide homeless veterans and those veterans at risk of homelessness. Assembly Democrats John Armato (D-Atlantic), Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) and Joe Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset) are sponsors of the legislation.
“New Jersey has between 1,500 and 2,000 homeless veterans,” said Armato, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in the Philippines Islands and Korea. “These statistics are unacceptable, and this legislation looks to correct such disturbing figures by helping these veterans get the services that they need and deserve.”
Under the bill, the Adjutant General would ensure that, to the extent practicable, agreements established under this section are made with entities located in the northern, central and southern regions of the state. The legal services would include:
(1) Legal services related to housing, including eviction defense, representation in landlord-tenant cases, and representation in foreclosure cases.
(2) Legal services related to family law, including assistance in court proceedings for child support, divorce, estate planning and family reconciliation.
(3) Legal services related to income support including assistance in obtaining public benefits.
(4) Legal services related to criminal defense, including defense in matters symptomatic of homelessness, such as outstanding warrants, fines and driver’s license revocation.
(5) Other legal services as the Adjutant General deems appropriate.
“It is unconscionable that we allow veterans to be homeless considering the sacrifices they have made to safeguard our liberties,” said Mukherji, a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marines. “In many instances, the stress and frustration that veterans experience are related to a lack of services or awareness that they exist. By helping more veterans income-qualify for rental housing, this law will help eliminate a few more roadblocks in their lives.”
“Sadly, our veterans comprise some of the highest rates of unemployment, homelessness and suicide in our communities,” said Danielsen who served in the U.S. Army Reserves’ 78th Division here in New Jersey and comes from a long line of veterans in his family. “We must continue looking for ways to better serve our veterans, and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”
Both measures now head to the Governor’s desk for consideration.