An Assembly panel on Monday approved a bill package sponsored by Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio to ensure that New Jersey residents experiencing extreme hardship receive crucial state assistance to help meet basic needs.
“The state’s Emergency Assistance program serves as a critical lifeline in situations where residents may have lost their home or possessions due to a catastrophe or have been unemployed and are on the verge of being forced out onto the street,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “The sensible changes contained in these bills will ensure that someone experiencing extreme hardship receives the helping hand they need to get back up on their feet, while ensuring that the system is not abused.”
Individuals who qualify for WorkFirst NJ/General Assistance are eligible for Emergency Assistance (EA) in certain situations, such as if they become homeless or are at immediate risk of becoming homeless, or when they experience a substantial loss of housing, food, clothing or household furnishings due to fire, flood or similar disaster.
EA benefits include, but are not limited to, essential food, clothing, shelter and household furnishings, temporary rental assistance or back rent or mortgage payments, utility payments, transportation to search for housing, and moving expenses.
EA is generally limited to 12 months, with additional assistance for up to six months in limited cases of extreme hardship. However, some people who receive EA pay the state back for those benefits. Typically, this occurs when someone qualifies for Social Security and receives retroactive Social Security payments. EA funds are then repaid to the state.
Muoio’s first bill (A-4295) would require the Department of Human Services to exclude any EA payments that were made and then repaid by the recipient, allowing them to become eligible again for that amount of time, up to the 12-month limit.
The second bill (A-4296) would allow an individual who previously received Emergency Assistance to again become eligible for a full twelve months of assistance if it has been at least seven years since they last received EA.
Both bills were approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee.