OFA Peer TA Network

For a number of years both the New Jersey Community Resources website and blog has highlighted a number of resources for social work professionals. The purpose of today’s article is to bring to the attention of social workers and county welfare agency personnel and their partners in community agencies a website operated on behalf of the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the Department of Health and Human Services.

To quote from the OFA Peer Technical Assistance Network website: “The goal of Peer TA is to establish linkages among TANF agencies and their partners serving TANF and low-income families at the state, county, local, and tribal level. The Peer TA website acts as a dissemination and communications vehicle, supporting the Peer TA Network in the provision of technical assistance, facilitating a dialogue among organizations serving TANF and low-income families, and helping organizations learn about innovative programs and the latest research around effective strategies to successfully support TANF and low-income families on a path to self-sufficiency.”

Each week OFA Peer TA distributes a newsletter to its subscribers, informing them of new developments, programs, position papers, etc. on a wide variety of subjects. If you wish to subscribe, visit their newsletter sign up page. You will find it useful to stay up-to-date with federal programs and policies or if a social work student doing research.

Below is a sampling of just a few articles appearing in their newsletter or website within the past few months. They include:

OFA Peer TA often hosts webinars on a number of topics. Announcements of future webinars and webcasts appear in their email distributions.

For readers interested in New Jersey welfare statistics, the Division of Family Development still maintains a monthly report titled DFD Current Program Statistics, previously mentioned in a 2010 blog article.

For further information, please email Michael Swayze at michael.swayze@njcommunityresources.info.

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Expungement Information Session

City of Elizabeth Hosts Expungement Information Session – August 11

The City of Elizabeth will host an Expungement Information Session on Thursday, August 11 from 6pm to 8pm at the Elizabeth Public Library, 11 South Broad Street. The purpose of the meeting is to explain changes to the expungement of criminal records, based on legislation that took effect in April, 2016, following a two-year effort.

Advocates and attorneys representing such groups as Legal Services of New Jersey, Community Health Law Project and Make the Road New Jersey will be present to answer questions.

The information session coincides with the recent launching of a Facebook page,
City of Elizabeth Reentry Program. The site already provides a number of links on the expungement process. Persons interested in volunteering to assist at the meeting – greeters, registration – may call Deshawn Pierce at 908-820-4052.

Related links on expungement include:

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Tech Tips: Five Ways To Sidestep Cybercriminals

Password management is an area where just about everyone has room for improvement. Here’s a list of five straightforward ways to make sure your passwords and online accounts stay out of the hands of cybercriminals.

1. Find out if you’ve already been hacked
There’s always a chance that your account information is already in the hands of cybercriminals. Fortunately, there are some tools available that can help you identify and change the passwords on any accounts that have been compromised. For example, the website “Have I Been Pwned” lets you enter your email address and find out if any of your account credentials have shown up in hacker circles. You can search a list of companies that have suffered data breaches at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. You can also consult the “List of Data Breaches” on Wikipedia, which is searchable using your web browser’s “Find” or “Search” function. Above all, be a bit suspicious and trust your instincts. If you have reason to believe a password might have been exposed, change it.

2. Use strong passwords
It’s important to use complex passwords that will be difficult for hackers to guess. Just remember that adjacent sets of adjacent letters and numbers on your keyboard – like “qwerty” or “123456” – are not complex passwords. The best passwords typically include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. If using complex passwords seems like too much of a pain, consider a password management tool like DashLane or LastPass. These tools help users create, store and manage complex passwords.

3. Don’t let the bad guys get your passwords
This might seem obvious, but you might be amazed at how many people keep their passwords posted in places where others can read them. You should never share your passwords and always store them in a secure location away from prying eyes. Also, don’t keep your passwords – or any sensitive information for that matter – listed in a computer file that is easily accessed without a password. Any password lists on your computer should be password protected and encrypted.

4. Use secure communications
Never send a password over email. If you want to create an account on website, make sure that the URL of that website begins with ‘https’ because the ‘s’ at the end indicates advanced security measures. Websites that begin with “http” are not as secure. Additionally, do not use public computers or public Wi-Fi to log into online banking and other sensitive accounts.

5. Choose difficult security questions
When registering an account online, you’ll often be asked to choose security questions and answers. These are used to verify your identity if you lose your password or if a security breach of some kind is suspected. The key here is to choose questions that are hard to figure out. Remember, just about anyone can find your mother’s maiden name if they really want to. Avoid using information that someone can easily look up online. For example, you wouldn’t want to rely on information that can be seen easily on a social media profile to inform your password choice – such as name of spouse, hometown, employer.

Hopefully you have found this article helpful and you’ll take a few steps to make your own password use more secure starting today.

Source: The above article is written by Carbonite , a company providing automatic cloud backup for your computer files. If you’re a Carbonite Partner or a small business, I hope you’ll share these tips your co-workers, employees and clients. And if you’re a consumer using a Carbonite Personal Plan, be sure to share these tips with friends and loved ones.

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Newark, New Jersey Seeking Chief Sustainability Officer

The following post appears on a City of Newark, New Jersey government website.

Job Posting: Seeking Chief Sustainability Officer

The City of Newark is recruiting a Chief Sustainability Officer who will work closely with an interdepartmental Sustainability Team drawn from key city departments, the Newark Environmental Commission, community partners, and businesses. The team is charged with achieving a healthier, greener Newark in all five wards. The Sustainability Team will build on the framework of the Newark Sustainability Action Plan, guided by principles of environmental and social justice, to ensure all members of the community benefit from the city’s progress.

See job description here.

Applications submitted before July 25, 2016 will be given priority. Position will start in mid-September.

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Disparities in New Jersey Prison System

A report by the Sentencing Project provides a mixed picture of the social justice system in the state of New Jersey.

The report states,”Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of racial and ethnic disparities in the prison system, and focused attention on reduction of disparities. Since the majority of people in prison are sentenced at the state level rather than the federal level, it is critical to understand the variation in racial and ethnic composition across states, and the policies and the day-to-day practices that contribute to this variance. Incarceration creates a host of collateral consequences that include restricted employment prospects, housing instability, family disruption, stigma, and disenfranchisement.”

Key findings include:

  • African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1.
  • In twelve states, more than half of the prison population is black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Maryland, whose prison population is 72% African American, tops the nation.
  • States exhibit substantial variation in the range of racial disparity, from a black/white ratio of 12.2:1 in New Jersey to 2.4:1 in Hawaii.

On a positive note, New Jersey has witnessed and been a leader in reducing its prison population. Since 2000 the state has reduced the number of individuals in prison by 28%. It also has Re-entry Task Forces in a majority of counties. For more information on these community, county based groups contact the NJ State Parole Board by writing to: NJSPB_Public_Info_Office@spb.state.nj.us.

You can take action to help reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system. Ask your State Senator to support bill S677. The text of S677 is available online.

Special thanks to NJ Advance Media reporter, S.P. Sullivan for his recent article, “Racial disparity in NJ prison rates highest in U.S., report finds”.

The Sentencing Project is a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice issues.

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NJ Housing Choice Voucher Enrollment, Part 2

Beginning today and lasting until Friday, June 17 5pm, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) will be accepting pre-applications for the Housing Choice Voucher Program (previously known as Section 8 rental assistance). Application can only be made online at https://www.waitlistcheck.com/NJ559.

A number of questions have been raised with respect to the application and screening process. Here are a few questions with answers supplied by DCA’s Division of Housing and Community Resources.

1. If the household income listed on the HCV pre-application is over the income limit will the application be rejected immediately?

If the income listed on the pre-application is over the income limit, the applicant will be notified that the pre-application cannot be accepted. The applicant will have the opportunity to correct their entry on the pre-application if they made an error.

2. Somewhere I read, “only one pre-application per household per county will be accepted”. Does this mean a person may apply in more than one county?

Yes, a household may submit pre-applications for multiple counties.

3. How is county of residence a screening factor, based on self-disclosure?

At the pre-application stage, the applicant is asked to list county of residence. Should the pre-application be selected for the waiting list, when the applicant is selected from the waiting list, they will be required to verify all information submitted. Misrepresentation of information is grounds for denial of entrance into the program

4. Would a person considered homeless be able to choose which county to apply in?

A homeless person may submit applications for all counties, as any other applicant may do. In terms of the county of residence, a homeless person may submit as their county of residence the county in which they stayed on the night before the submission of the pre-application.

5. Can you explain sorting preferences?

As described in DCA’s Administrative Plan, preference points will be awarded to the people who are disabled, victims of domestic violence and to those residing in the county in which they submitted a pre-application. Should a pre-application be selected for the waiting list, the applicant will be required to verify all information submitted. Misrepresentation of information is grounds for denial of entrance into the program.

6. A person accepted should continue to furnish updated information, especially if there is a move on their part. Should they report changes/update information to a local DHCR field office?

All applicants are responsible for keeping their contact information current with DCA, so that DCA may contact them when their application is selected from the waiting list. Applicants may update their information through the waitlistcheck website, or through DCA’s customer service unit, which may be reached at 609-292-4080 or via email at customer.service@dca.nj.gov.

Other questions and answers may be obtained by reading the Housing Choice Voucher Program FAQ (English) or Housing Choice Voucher Program FAQ (Spanish).

The Housing Choice Voucher Program’s Administrative Plan FY2017 is also available online.

Keep in mind the waiting list website may be slow due to the number of people trying to access the site. DCA issued the following announcement this morning, “Please note that the waiting list is lottery based and the date and time that you apply will not affect your chances of being selected, as long as your application is submitted before Friday, June 17th at 5 PM. Any pre-application submitted by 5 PM on Friday, June 17th has an equal chance of being selected for the waiting list.”

DCA added, “You will receive confirmation once your application has been received. If you do not receive confirmation within 90 minutes of your application submission, it’s possible that your application was not received and you should apply again.”

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Housing Choice Voucher Enrollment Begins June 13

The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), Division of Housing and Community Resources (DHCR) will be accepting pre-applications on-line for 10,100 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) in all twenty-one (21) New Jersey Counties. The Enrollment Period is from Monday June 13, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. to Friday June 17, 2016 at 5:00 p.m.

The number of pre-applications being accepted by County are:
Atlantic – 350; Bergen – 900; Burlington – 500; Camden – 575; Cape May – 200; Cumberland – 275; Essex – 850; Gloucester – 350; Hudson – 725; Hunterdon – 200; Mercer – 450; Middlesex – 825; Monmouth – 650; Morris – 525; Ocean – 625; Passaic – 600; Salem – 175; Somerset – 375; Sussex – 200; Union – 575; Warren – 175.

Key requirements and information related to the pre-application process:

  • All pre-applications submitted online from June 13, 2016 at 9:00am to June 17, 2016 at 5:00pm will be entered into a database and a lottery system will be used to select pre-applications.
  • Pre-applications for housing assistance will be accepted from very low-income individuals and families based on the income limits established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Applicants must be eighteen (18) years of age or older to apply, or be an emancipated minor. YOU MUST HAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS TO APPLY.
  • Only one (1) pre-application per household per county will be accepted.
  • Web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer 10 or higher are recommended.
  • The HCV Program is a federally funded program that provides housing subsidies on behalf of low-income persons for decent, safe and sanitary housing. Persons applying must meet all of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) income and eligibility requirements.
  • Maximum Income Limits: Your total household income cannot exceed the limits shown on the income charts for the County in which you are applying. Be sure to use the figure for the size of your household. The chart only goes up to 8 household members. If you have a larger household, please contact DCA at 609-292-2528 for assistance in determining the maximum income limits for
    your household. Click here for Income Limits.
  • If you are disabled and need assistance with submitting your pre-application, please contact DCA at 609-292-4080 and select Option 1 or 8 from the Menu and request a reasonable accommodation.
  • Individuals selected by the lottery will be notified via email which may take several weeks.

More Information on the Pre-Appliction

HCV Income Limits

Link to Apply Beginning on June 13th

Source: Monarch Housing Associates. Reprinted with permission.

There are a few other items to keep in mind when making application. First, the pre-application form will only be available online and the applicant must include an email address for notification purposes. No paper applications will be taken. Free email accounts are available from a number of Internet providers. They include, but are not limited to: Gmail, Outlook or Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, GMX.

It is recommended you also read the Department of Community Affairs’
Housing Choice Voucher Program – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

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