Muoio Bill to Provide Assistance Benefits to Those Who Complete Drug Treatment Heads to Governor’s Desk

Bill Would Provide Financial Assistance, Job Training & Education through Work First NJ

The General Assembly on Monday granted final approval 46-28 to legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Liz Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) that would remove the eligibility restrictions for receiving general assistance benefits under the Work First New Jersey program for individuals who have been convicted of an offense involving the use, possession, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance.

“It can be tremendously hard to turn one’s life around after a drug conviction because of all the doors that close in their face due to legal constraints, especially for those who don’t have family or friends to rely on for assistance,” said Muoio. “This change is designed to help end the cycle of addiction and recidivism by giving people the means to turn their life around. Financial assistance, job training, education – all of these things provide hope and a chance at a new start.”

Muoio noted that this is the only type of offense that bars individuals who are convicted from being eligible for these benefits.

WorkFirst NJ, the state’s welfare reform program, emphasizes work as the first step toward building a new life and a brighter future. Through cash assistance, job training, education, work activities and many other support services, the program aims to help people get off welfare, secure employment and become self-sufficient.

Currently, anyone convicted of offenses involving the use, possession, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance is ineligible for general assistance benefits, with the exception of some who may be eligible for benefits if they enroll in or complete a licensed residential drug treatment program. For those enrolled in a treatment program, this exception is contingent on continued participation in the program and periodic drug screenings demonstrating they have not used any controlled dangerous substance.

There is currently no exception to the general assistance eligibility restriction for persons convicted of offenses involving distribution of a controlled dangerous substance.

Under the bill (A-4913), people convicted of offenses involving controlled dangerous substances would be subject to the same eligibility requirements to receive general assistance benefits as apply to the general population, with no additional requirements or restrictions.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.