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Speaker Prieto Unveils Assembly Focus on Fighting Poverty

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto – as part of his vow to combat the scourge of poverty in New Jersey – on Wednesday announced Assembly committees next week will begin devising ways to lift New Jersey residents out of poverty, rebuild the middle-class and make New Jersey more affordable.

The committees will meet in special hearings on Wednesday, Jan. 27, beginning by taking testimony, with the goal being to develop new legislation.

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.

“What’s even more concerning than the shocking number of residents living in poverty is that the outlook is bleak unless we take significant steps to change the status quo,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “We live in a state where the richest 20 percent hold half of all the income. We applaud and welcome such success, but such inequality is concerning, both when it comes to sound fiscal and smart social policy. We must rebuild the middle-class and make New Jersey more affordable with common sense 21st century ideas and government reforms.”

Prieto added, “I’ll keep this simple – we should be embarrassed that so many of our fellow New Jerseyans – our friends, our neighbors, our own family members – are living in poverty in 2016. It is not acceptable. We must rebuild our middle-class.”

Prieto noted, for instance, that New Jersey’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has been underutilized and that 80 percent of other states are doing a better job at distributing the federal benefits. Meanwhile, New Jersey has eliminated emergency housing assistances.

“Some of this is going to be challenging and require innovative ideas,” Prieto said. “Some of this is doing what’s right and ensuring programs operate more efficiently and effectively to make New Jersey more affordable.”

Prieto said the following committees will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 27:

  • Human Services will focus on existing and needed services necessary to help residents overcome poverty.
  • Housing and Community Development will focus on the housing problems and needs of families living in poverty.
  • Transportation will focus on New Jersey’s transportation network and how it could be used to help those in poverty and how it acts as a barrier for those in poverty.
  • Women and Children will focus on employment issues such as job training availability, pay equity and employment barriers, particularly for female heads of household and issues that impact children living in poverty.

A detailed schedule will be announced shortly.

“This is just the start of what I expect to be a comprehensive effort to lift up New Jersey families,” Prieto said. “Poverty is so costly on so many levels, both human and fiscal. In 2016, we should not have millions of adults and children living in poverty in this state. We need to lift them up as part of a comprehensive effort to rebuild our middle-class.”