Heat and Eat Program, Part II

A number of articles have appeared in the past few weeks and months, written by various advocacy groups on the ‘Heat and Eat’ issue. Together, they provide a compelling story about new, threatened safety net cuts for New Jersey families. Selected articles are:

The bill now awaits action by Governor Christie.

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Heat and Eat: New Jersey Legislature Responds To Protect SNAP

A number of months ago it was disclosed that tens of thousands of seniors, disabled individuals, minor children and other low income New Jersey families again faced possible cuts in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (previously known as food stamps). Yesterday, June 26, the New Jersey Legislature passed legislation to avoid the cuts by tailoring New Jersey policy to requirements spelled out in the federal Farm Bill passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this year.

The legislation, A2956, sometimes referred to as the “Heat and Eat bill” passed both the Assembly and State Senate overwhelmingly. A reprint of the bill is available at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A3000/2956_R2.PDF. An independent evaluation of the legislation is also available online by the Office of Legislative Services. The bill now awaits action by Governor Christie.

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Information and Resources To Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit

The purpose of this article is to bring attention of the Earned Income Tax Credit – both federal and state – to New Jerseyans and to provide links to various EITC resources.

According to national statistics, about 20% – 25% of eligible households do not claim the EITC benefits. Those who go without this income boost can lose out on thousand of dollars in tax credits or refunds. For example, workers who earned too little to be required to file a tax return must complete a return to receive an EITC refund.

EITC outreach material is available from a number of agencies and organizations. They include:

  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities EITC Outreach Kit
  • New Jersey Division of Family Development EITC Fact Sheet
  • New Jersey Division of Family Development EITC Flyer

    Free assistance in the preparation of federal and New Jersey state income tax returns is available for taxpayers at local VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) sites and AARP Foundations sites. A list of available locations is available by calling either 2-1-1, or the IRS at 800-906-9887. The NJ 2-1-1 Partnership maintains a list of VITA/AARP sites at http://www.nj211.org/vita09.cfm . The IRS provides a VITA Locator at http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/.

    All taxpayers with a 2013 adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less can access brand name tax software at no cost. For details visit, http://www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File%3A-Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-Free or the Free File Alliance.

    Visit the Earned Income Tax Credit page on the New Jersey Community Resources website regarding a policy instruction recently issued by the New Jersey Division of Family Development concerning the treatment of EITC as it relates to TANF, General Assistance, and SNAP (formerly food stamps).

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    Tri-State Region to Congress: Put Transit Tax Benefits at the Top of To-Do List

    Tri-State Region to Congress: Put Transit Tax Benefits at the Top of To-Do List.

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    Benefits for New Jersey Residents with Drug Convictions: Frequently Asked Questions

    The following is a fact sheet issued by the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance. The original article is available at www.drugpolicy.org/resource/benefits-new-jersey-residents-drug-convictions. It is reprinted with permission. Feel free to circulate this information and fact sheet to your network. For additional information please contact Meagan Glaser, their Deputy State Director at 609-396-8613.

    Getting needed social services and support can be particularly challenging for people with drug convictions. A number of federal and state laws make these individuals ineligible for certain types of assistance or place significant barriers in the way of getting assistance. These laws make it difficult for those who need help to reintegrate into their communities, access social services and rebuild their lives. This factsheet answers common questions about eligibility for three of the most helpful social support programs: Food Stamps/SNAP, Cash Assistance/GA and Medicaid.

    Can People With Drug Convictions Get Food Stamps/SNAP?
    Yes. Previously known as Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program that provides nutritional assistance to low-income individuals and families. In 1996, the federal government created a restriction denying nutritional assistance to anyone convicted of a federal or state drug possession or distribution felony. The federal government allows states to opt out of or modify the restriction.

    Fortunately, New Jersey opted out of the restriction on Food Stamps/SNAP for those with drug convictions.ii Thus, people with drug convictions, whether for possession or distribution, are eligible for SNAP as long as they meet the program’s other eligibility requirements.

    Can People With Children get Cash Assistance/TANF If They Have Drug Convictions?
    Yes. WorkFirst New Jersey provides temporary cash assistance to eligible families through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF provides federal money to states in the form of block grants. Federal restrictions deny cash assistance to anyone convicted of a federal or state felony involving the possession, use, or distribution of drugs. The federal government allows states to opt out of or modify the restriction.iii

    Fortunately, New Jersey has opted out of the restriction on TANF benefits. Thus, families headed by individuals who have drug convictions for possession, use or distribution are eligible for TANF benefits.iv

    Can Single People Without Children get Cash Assistance/GA If They Have Drug Convictions?
    Yes, if the convictions were for possession or use of drugs and they enroll in and complete a licensed residential drug treatment program. WorkFirst New Jersey provides temporary cash assistance to single people and childless couples through the General Assistance (GA) program.v GA is funded entirely by state dollars.

    New Jersey state law denies GA to people with convictions for offenses involving possession or use of drugs unless they enroll in and complete a licensed residential drug treatment program. Thus, single people without children can reestablish their eligibility for GA if they enroll in a licensed residential drug treatment and undergo drug testing while in the program and for a 60-day period after completion. A failed drug test while in treatment or during the 60-day period directly following will terminate eligibility. People wishing to reestablish their eligibility for GA in this way must supply proof of treatment from the program. Participating in or completing any other type of drug program, including methadone or Intensive Outpatient (IOP), does not reestablish eligibility for GA.vi

    No, if the convictions were for drug distribution. New Jersey State law denies GA to single people without children if they have been convicted of any drug distribution offenses.vii

    Can People With Drug Convictions Get Medicaid?
    Yes, as of January 1, 2014. Prior to January 1, 2014 individuals had to be eligible for WorkFirst New Jersey/GA in order to qualify for Medicaid. This requirement created a bar to Medicaid for many individuals with drug convictions because New Jersey State law disqualified them from WorkFirst New Jersey/GA.

    The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) will change this beginning January 1, 2014. Under the ACA, WorkFirst New Jersey/GA will be “delinked” from Medicaid. Since Medicaid is a federal program with no bar for past drug convictions, individuals with any type of past drug conviction will be eligible for Medicaid as long as they meet Medicaid’s other eligibility requirements.viii

    i 21U.S.C. s. 862a(a) and (b).
    ii NJSA 44:10-48(d)(1): “Pursuant to the authorization provided to the states under 21 U.S.C. s.862a(d)(1), this State elects to exempt from the application of 21U.S.C. s. 862a(a): (1) needy persons and their dependent children domiciled in New Jersey for the purposes of receiving benefits under the WorkFirst New Jersey program and food assistance under the federal “Food and Nutrition Act of 2008,” Pub.L.110-234 (7U.S.C. s.2011 et seq.); and (2) single persons and married couples without dependent children domiciled in New Jersey for the purposes of receiving food assistance under Pub.L.110-234.”
    iii 21U.S.C. s. 862a(a) and (b).
    iv NJSA 44:10-48(d)(1).
    v N.J.S.A. Title 44, Chapters 8 and 10.
    vi NJSA 44:10-48(b)(7); NJAC 10:90-18.6; NJ ADC 10:90-2.8.
    vii NJSA 44:10-48(b)(7); NJAC 10:90-18.6; NJ ADC 10:90-2.8.
    viii New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services correspondence

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    Four Ways To Access the Health Insurance Marketplace

    There are four ways to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. They are:

    • Apply online. Visit HealthCare.gov to get started.
    • Apply by phone. Call 800-318-2596 to apply for a health insurance plan and enroll over the phone.
    • Apply in person. visit a trained counselor to get information and apply in person. Find out who can help at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.
    • Apply by mail. Complete a paper application and mail it in. You can download the paper application form and instructions from HealthCare.gov.

    The final deadline for enrollment for 2014 is March 30, 2014.

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    Apps For Veterans

    This being Veteran’s Day it seems only fitting and right to take time to thank all our veterans. The information below is my small way of giving tribute to the fine men and women who have served in our Armed Forces. The following are resources I found while surfing the Web.

    A number of smartphone apps have been developed for veterans. They include: 1) Position Report (POS REP) an application that connects veterans via GPS to an interactive social network. To download the app visit the POS REP website at http://pos-rep.com. (Source: September 9, 2013 article in military.com.) 2) Hiring Our Heroes. Featured last month in the U.S. Veterans magazine and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation webpage. 3) A White House blog article from 2012 details a number of “Apps for Heroes”. For details see the White House blog article and a link to VA Blue Button apps. 4) PTSD Coach. See National Center for PTSD for details. 5) Claims Coach, provided by the American Legion giving guidance through the process of filing for VA benefits.

    Military and Veterans Benefits Insider’s Guide, includes 2013 Veteran’s Day discounts and free meals for veterans and their families. MilitaryBenefits.info is a non-government website.

    Traditional websites for veterans are: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. A successful nonprofit serving a number of counties in New Jersey offering supportive and housing services for veterans is Community Hope, located in Parsippany. For more information call 855-483-8466. Other nonprofits offering outreach to New Jersey veterans and their families are Soldier On, 866-406-8449; and Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, 856-854-4660.

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