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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    Fugitive Safe Surrender November 6-9, 2013

    The following is a reprint of a press release issued by New Jersey Office of Attorney General.

    “Fugitive Safe Surrender” Invites New Jersey Fugitives to Voluntarily Surrender This Week, Seek Favorable Consideration

    JERSEY CITY – This week, from Wednesday, November 6 through Saturday, November 9,the State of New Jersey invites wanted persons to peacefully turn themselves in at a church in Jersey City, and seek favorable consideration from the court.

    The initiative is called Fugitive Safe Surrender. Based on its past success in New Jersey, an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 individuals are expected to peacefully turn themselves in during the four days.

    The vast majority of participants – typically, more than 99 percent of those who surrender – can expect to return home the same day. They can expect to leave the program with their cases fully resolved, or with a court date to resolve their cases in the near future. Most important, after participating they will no longer be wanted persons, and need no longer hide from the law.

    “If you are wanted for a non-violent offense, we invite you to join the 13,000 individuals from across New Jersey who have already placed themselves on the right side of the law through Fugitive Safe Surrender,” New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “Though not an amnesty program, this represents the best opportunity and the best deal you are ever going to find.”

    State Parole Board Chairman James T. Plousis said, “Fugitive apprehensions are inherently dangerous for law enforcement officers, for the fugitives themselves, and for their families and communities. With each individual who voluntarily surrenders, the community becomes safer. Each surrender also saves taxpayer dollars that can be better spent on other public safety matters.”

    The surrender location is Evangelismos Church at 661 Montgomery Street in Jersey City. The program is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m . each of the four days. After surrendering at the church, participants will be taken across the street to the Jersey City Armory for the processing of their cases. Individuals seeking further information can visit www.FSSNJ.com or call 855-FSS-NJ12 (855-377-6512).

    Fugitive Safe Surrender does not provide amnesty, but does enable wanted persons to work with a judge, prosecutor and public defender, and seek favorable consideration. This typically results in probation rather than jail time. In addition, every attempt is made to reduce the individual’s unpaid fines or work out a reasonable payment plan.

    The initiative is only open to American citizens or legal residents of the United States. Its focus is on those wanted for non-violent criminal matters, or for municipal matters such as unpaid fines or child support. Individuals who are wanted for violent crimes, or who have a violent criminal history, are much more likely to be taken into custody.

    A total of 13,276 individuals turned themselves in at New Jersey’s four previous Fugitive Safe Surrender events. Because the vast majority were wanted for non-violent felonies or municipal offenses, more than 99 percent returned home the same day they surrendered. Less than 1 percent were incarcerated.

    Hudson County Acting Prosecutor Gaetano T. Gregory said, “We are proud to host Fugitive Safe Surrender in Hudson County. This initiative is possible through a truly impressive partnership that brings faith – and community-based groups together with state, county, and municipal agencies. It will help transform lives, and help make the public safer.”

    Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said, “The success of Fugitive Safe Surrender speaks for itself. Those who turn themselves in will seek favorable consideration from the court. As law enforcement leaders we can say that if you participate in this program you will obtain a much better outcome than you will on the street, if police have to find you and take you into custody.”

    Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said, “Fugitive Safe Surrender creates an important, limited-time opportunity to face a judge, face up to your offenses, and get your life back on track. Anyone wanted for a non-violent offense in New Jersey should take advantage of this initiative.”

    Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari said, “Any interaction between law enforcement and a wanted fugitive – even if the person is wanted for a low-level, non-violent infraction – creates the risk of serious harm. Fugitive Safe Surrender succeeds in protecting the safety of police officers, as well as the safety of those who surrender.”

    Todd Clear, Interim Chancellor of Rutgers-Newark and Dean of the School of Criminal Justice, said, “The Rutgers School of Criminal Justice is proud to be
    participating in this effort with our law enforcement and community-based partners. Fugitive Safe Surrender creates the opportunity for extraordinary partnerships between law enforcement and community groups that last well beyond the surrender opportunity, and create lasting benefits for public safety.”

    Fugitive Safe Surrender is made possible by a partnership led by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, New Jersey State Parole Board, New Jersey Department of Corrections, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, New Jersey Office of Information Technology, and New Jersey Transit.

    Key partners include the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice and the Police Institute at Rutgers-Newark; Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church; the Prosecutor’s and Sheriff’s Offices of Hudson, Bergen, and Passaic counties; the Superior and Municipal Courts of New Jersey, primarily the Hudson and Passaic vicinages; the City of Jersey City and the County of Hudson; county and local law enforcement from Hudson, Bergen, and Passaic counties; and other agencies and organizations at the state, county, municipal, community and faith-based levels.

    For more information about Fugitive Safe Surrender:
    Info Line (for members of the public): 855-FSS-NJ12 (855-377-6512)
    Website: http://www.FSSNJ.com
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fssnj
    Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/fssnj1
    E-mail: fssnj@lps.state.nj.us

    For Further Information Contact:
    Neal Buccino (NJ OAG), 973-504-6510; 973-997-2319 cell
    Rachel Goemaat (NJ OAG), 609-292-4791
    Martin Houston (NJ SPB), 609-777-0422

    The press release is available at http://nj.gov/oag/newsreleases13/11.04.13-FSS-Press-Release.pdf or downloaded.

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    Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program

    Yesterday, Governor Christie announced the launch of the Sandy Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP), a temporary relief program to assist individuals and families experiencing a housing crisis resulting from Hurricane Sandy. Affected households could qualify for up to six months of payment vouchers (no more than $15,000 in total assistance) to cover select home appliances and current past due payments on rent, mortgages and/or utility bills. Payment vouchers will be offered only for subsidies, benefits, or services that have not been or will not be covered by FEMA, home insurance or other government grants and subsidies.

    To be eligible for the program, an individual or family unit must:

    • Have a financial distress directly related to housing which is a direct result of Superstorm Sandy;
    • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible alien;
    • Not currently be receiving Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) benefits or be eligible for WFNJ/SSI Emergency Assistance; and
    • Be legally or blood-related. (If two unrelated families/individuals are sharing a home/apartment, each can apply separately.)

    Other details are available by reading the official press release issued by the Governor’s office on October 22, 2013.

    The state Department of Human Services has provided a list of SHRAP providers on their website. Applicants for SHRAP may apply in the county in which they are currently residing. For additional Sandy relief information visit http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/shrap/.

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