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Prieto & Schaer: Democratic Budget Plan an Investment in New Jersey’s Working Families

Assembly Leaders Hail Budget Plan as Yet another Step toward Rebuilding New Jersey’s Middle-Class & Combating Poverty
Includes Increased Funding for Senior & Disabled Property Tax Relief, Preschool Education Expansion, Charity Care, Lead Safety in Schools & Homes, Needy Families, Domestic Violence & Rape Victims, Abused Children, Educational Opportunity Fund, School Breakfast Program, Substance Abuse Prevention, Autism Care, Cancer Research, Zika Virus Prevention & Adult Education

(TRENTON) — Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assembly Budget Chairman Gary Schaer on Thursday hailed the Democratic state budget plan as yet another key step toward rebuilding New Jersey’s middle-class, combating poverty, ensuring access to quality health care and protecting the state’s most vulnerable residents.

The plan (A-4000) includes increased funding for concerns ranging from fully funding the Senior and Disabled Citizens’ Property Tax Freeze program, expanding preschool education, lead safety in schools and homes and preventing the governor’s cut in hospital charity care.

It also provide increased funding help for domestic violence, rape victims and abused children, along with the Educational Opportunity Fund, adult education, substance abuse prevention and autism, along with increased help for community providers, home health aides, the school breakfast program for low-income children and for Zika virus prevention training.

It features $14.2 million to increase the maximum cash assistance benefit for families participating in the Work First New Jersey Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The program provides cash and other assistance to low-income families with dependent children to alleviate the negative effects of poverty.

The funding comes after a report by New Jersey Policy Perspective detailed the devastating economic and social impact of New Jersey’s decision not to increase assistance or eligibility for 29 years.

Assembly Democrats have made combating poverty a major focus of this legislative session.

“This Democratic budget represents a crucial down payment on our commitment to rebuild New Jersey’s middle-class and combat the shocking rise in poverty we’ve seen under Gov. Christie’s watch,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “A budget is a reflection of priorities, and with our focus on jobs, health care, education and fighting the scourge of poverty, Assembly Democrats are re-emphasizing our commitment to doing the right thing for New Jersey’s hard-working families. This budget makes clear that we will not waver from our support for New Jersey’s working class.”

According to a recent report by Legal Services of New Jersey, more New Jersey residents are in poverty now than in the past five decades. The agency estimates about 2.8 million adults and 800,000 children lived poverty in New Jersey 2014. That’s 40 percent higher than it was before the 2008 Great Recession.

“This Democratic budget represents an investment in New Jersey’s working class families,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “During our public budget hearings throughout the state, one thing was clear: too many in New Jersey are struggling to make ends meet. That is why this budget plan puts the focus squarely where it needs to be — on boosting our middle-class while giving our working poor and most vulnerable residents the help they need.”

Prieto and Schaer noted that Assembly Democratic priorities in the $34.8 billion Democratic budget plan — which is about $27.7 million less than the governor proposed — includes, among other things:

  • $45 million to fully fund the Senior and Disabled Citizens’ Property Tax Freeze;
  • $25 million more to prevent the governor’s proposed cut in funding to help hospitals provide charity care;
  • $25 million in preschool education expansion aid;
  • $20 million total for lead testing and remediation in schools and homes;
  • $20 million cost-of-living adjustment for community providers;
  • $14.2 million to increase the maximum cash assistance benefit for families participating in the Work First New Jersey Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The program provides cash and other assistance to low-income families with dependent children in order to alleviate the negative effects of poverty;
  • $5.25 million to increase Medicaid rates for nursing homes, assisted living and comprehensive personal care homes;
  • $5 million for the Educational Opportunity Fund for students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who attend institutions of higher education in the state;
  • $5 million for Zika virus prevention training through the state for municipal health officer training;
  • $4 million for adult education;
  • $3 million to improve the Breakfast After the Bell program, which provides nutrition to low-income students;
  • $2.8 million for sexual assault prevention services;
  • $2.5 million to support uncompensated caregivers;
  • $2.4 million for a child mental health care pilot program;
  • $2.24 million for domestic violence and rape prevention services;
  • $2 million for the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research;
  • $2 million for new substance abuse disorder treatment beds;
  • $2 million for Legal Services of New Jersey;
  • $1 million for the Cancer Institute of New Jersey;
  • $1 million for a REED Academy and Ramapo College program to help those with autism who are 18 years or age and older;
  • $850,000 for court appointed special advocates for abused and neglected children;
  • $250,000 to help better provide home health aides;
  • Language to increase the monthly personal needs allowance for those who reside in nursing facilities, state or county psychiatric hospitals, and state developmental centers and who are eligible for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income benefits to $50; and
  • Language increasing low-income home energy assistance program minimum benefit payments to quality for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“This budget is yet another step in the Assembly Democratic battle against poverty and its adverse and costly impact on our state,” Prieto said. “Gov. Christie needs to do the right thing and sign this as-is. When it comes to helping those including domestic violence victims, abused children and our most vulnerable, we must stand strong and do what’s right.”

“Increased funding for Breakfast After the Bell and Work First NJ, for examples, are fiscally sound investments that will lead to better outcomes at school and at work,” Schaer said. “The status quo is unacceptable. As this budget plan proves, we can do more, and we can do it in a fiscally responsible way.”