Bridgeway Offers Housing Assistance to Chronically Homeless

Housing First Vouchers are available for individuals who are chronically homeless, living in Union County. Person must meet the below requirements to be considered for the voucher.

Person must be Chronically Homeless as defined by HUD:

  • Homeless for 12 months consecutively
  • Homeless on four different occasions in the last three years equaling twelve months or more

Person must have proof of one of the following disabilities:

  • A Serious Mental Illness
  • Diagnosable Substance Abuse Disorder
  • A Developmental Disability
  • A Chronic Physical Illness or Disability, including the co-occurrence of two or more of the above conditions

Please contact Bridgeway Homeless Outreach Counselor, Tisheka Allen for an Information and Referral Package. Phone: 908-289-7330 x101.

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Consumer Alert: Utilities Call Scam

The following press release was issued by the Federal Communication Commission’s Office of Media Relations:

CONSUMER ALERT: UTILITIES CALL SCAM
Beware of Callers Posing as Utility Employees Demanding Immediate Payment

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2016 – The Federal Communications Commission is alerting consumers to be on the lookout for callers pretending to be utility company employees demanding immediate payment, often by prepaid debit cards, credit cards, or gift cards. As American consumers prepare for winter months when many people would be endangered by an interruption to heating fuel, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau wanted to make consumers aware of this scam and prepared to protect themselves.

Key Consumer Tip: If consumers receive a call warning them of a balance they do not believe they owe their utility, they should hang up, independently look up their utility company’s phone number on a recent statement or legitimate website, and call that number to verify the legitimacy of the call.

In this scam, the caller typically poses as a representative of the consumer’s actual local utility, stating that immediate payment will ensure that the consumer’s heating service will not be disconnected. The scammers are known to spoof utility company telephone numbers so the caller ID makes it appear to be a call from the utility company. These scammers often use automated interactive voice response calling systems that mimic legitimate providers’ calls. After consumers, many of whom are older adults, follow instructions via interactive prompts, they are connected to a live “customer service representative” who asks for the access code for a credit, debit, or gift card. This information allows the scammer to cash out the card or sell it to a third party.

Anyone who believes they have been targeted by this scam should immediately report the incident to their actual utility company, to local police, to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant and to the FCC’s Consumer Help Center.

Consumers should always be on alert for this scam and others. The following tips can help ward off unwanted calls and scams:

• Do not answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.
• If you are unclear if a caller is legitimate, hang up, look up the company’s phone number independently on your recent bill or their legitimate website, and contact them through an official number, web form or email address to see if they called you. By initiating the communication yourself, you can verify that the request for payment is legitimate
• If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify – and then target – live respondents.
• If you receive a scam call, write down the number and file a complaint with the FCC and other appropriate authorities so we can help identify and take appropriate action to help consumers targeted by illegal callers.
• Ask your phone service provider if it offers a robocall blocking service that allows subscribers to block unwanted calls. If not, encourage your provider to start offering a blocking service. You can also visit the FCC’s website on “Web Resources for Blocking Robocalls” for information and resources on available robocall blocking tools to help you reduce unwanted calls.
• Legitimate utility companies will not demand payment via gift cards.

As the agency that implements and enforces the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the FCC reviews all consumer complaints and will continue, when appropriate, to issue consumer alerts based on those complaints and other public information related to possible scams and frauds. This is part of a new, standing series of consumer alerts from the FCC in hopes of informing, protecting, and empowering consumers.

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Contact points for New Jersey utility companies include:
Atlantic City Electric; 800-642-3780
Elizabethtown Gas; 800-242-5830
Jersey Central Power & Light; 800-662-3115
New Jersey Natural Gas; 800-221-0051
Public Service Electric & Gas; 800-436-7734
Rockland Electric; 877-434-4100
South Jersey Gas; 888-766-9900
Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative; 973-875-5101
Vineland Municipal Electric Utility; 856-794-4021

Links to these utility companies can also be found on the New Jersey Community Resources website.

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Work First New Jersey: Programs and Supports

For those who did not read the series last month on welfare, this article summarizes a number of programs and support services available to TANF families in New Jersey. Listed below are a number of documents that were recently published by either the New Jersey Division of Family Development or created in partnership with other agencies. They attempt to provide a working knowledge of services and benefits available to families trying to leave the welfare system.

Information in the documents cover such topics as: employment disregards, the Supplemental Work Support program, the SAIF program, Post-TANF benefits, Transitional Child Care and the Career Advancement Voucher Program.

Follow the links to:

For purposes of clarification, I had the pleasure of collaborating with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and The Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless in creating the Post-TANF flyer and the Stuck…On Welfare? brochure, respectively. The WFNJ Handbook and the Support for Working Families brochure were published by the Division of Human Services.

For information on child care and other links visit the NJ Community Resources website.

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Violence Against Women

Several days ago the nation was shocked to hear the Republican nominee for President bragging about his behavior toward women. Terms such as ‘predatory’ and ‘sexual assault’ describe his words and actions. A way to end violence against women is to stand and work together, as it thrives when we are silent.

Very often women do not know where to turn to seek counseling or emergency shelter. Below are a listing of organizations in each of New Jersey’s twenty-one counties.

Legal Services of New Jersey has revised their publication, 80 pages, Domestic Violence: A Guide to the Legal Rights of Domestic Violence Victims In New Jersey. An important phone number is the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-572-7233. However, in an emergency dial 911 for the police.

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Do You Feel Stuck On Welfare?

“Do you feel STUCK… …on Welfare?” is the title of a brochure produced in partnership with a nonprofit organization, The Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless. It provides information on a number of programs and is written for TANF clients, as well as families who have left welfare. For New Jersey nonprofits that provide counseling to low-income customers it offers useful information for new staff.

A few items in the Coalition’s brochure are worth highlighting. For example:
Employment Disregards provide an incentive to work. Earnings are completely disregarded in the first month of employment. It must be reported within ten days of receiving the first paycheck. Thereafter, 75% of gross earnings are disregarded, for up to six months. If a household remains eligible after the sixth month the disregard falls to 50%. For a full explanation consult an eligibility worker or case manager at your local county welfare agency.

Clients who are working but remain eligible for a partial grant may opt in to the Supplemental Work Support program. An application must be requested for SWS before the cash assistance case closes. Ask to speak to an income eligibility worker.

The brochure also makes references to stopping the clock. Families need to be reminded that welfare is time limited. Unless exempted, cash assistance ends after sixty months. The Supportive Assistance to Individuals and Families (SAIF) program provides intensive case management services to individuals as they approach the 60 month limit.

Families are encouraged to take advantage of a number of Post-TANF benefits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) both federal and state, transportation services, child care, energy assistance (LIHEAP, USF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

This Welfare to Work brochure is available for downloading.

This is the third and last article in a series pertaining to welfare and workforce development.

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Supports For Working Families

The majority of adults who leave welfare are often found to be employed in the months after they disconnect from public assistance. Many “welfare leavers” take advantage of popular social programs such as Medicaid, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and school breakfast programs. Other programs are not as well utilized or communicated to those attempting to become self-sufficient. The purpose of this article is to focus on a few programs in New Jersey that are not so commonly known.

Transitional Child Care (TCC) provides a subsidy for the twenty-four months following a TANF case closing. Parents should contact their Case Manager so a referral can be sent to the child care agency in their county. Note: even if a case is closed for reasons other than employment, a parent may be eligible for TCC, if current employed.

Supplemental Work Support (SWS) provides a $200 per month benefit for up to two years to a family that voluntarily withdraws from TANF. The application for SWS must be made prior to the case closing due to employment earnings. To qualify a household must meet the following conditions: 1) working twenty hours or more per week for the past four months, 2) have been on cash assistance for at least six months, 3) still receiving a partial grant prior to case closing. The $200 a month benefit does not count against the five year time limit. In fact, it “stops the clock.”

The Career Advancement Voucher Program (CAVP) allows individuals to obtain additional training or education after welfare. Requirements include: maintaining their current employment, have been working for at least the past four months. A person interested in work-related classes may receive a voucher up to $4000. The benefit is only available within the two years after TANF closing date. For a referral, contact a Work First New Jersey Case Manager.

Additional programs and benefits are available to working families. For information on these and other programs – SNAP, LIHEAP, USF, EITC and the “Get A Job, Get A Ride” program – download the attached documents. The Support for Working Families brochure was published in hard-copy earlier this year by the NJ Division of Family Development. The Post-TANF Support Services That You Need to Know About! flyer was produced in partnership with the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

This is the second in a series of articles and documents to be issued pertaining to welfare and workforce development.

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WFNJ Handbook

Twenty years ago “welfare as we know it” was fundamentally changed with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. New requirements and responsibilities are now a standard rule, along with the availability of a number of supportive services. Yet, after two decades, information is not be readily disseminated so welfare clients can make informed decisions in their efforts to become self-sufficient.

Every applicant for cash assistance is given a handbook which gives an overview of the program, available support services, as well as information on time limits, income disregards, work activities, deferrals and sanctions.

The handbook also details the many programs that individuals and families may receive both while receiving assistance and for the two year period following case closing. A number of these programs are under-utilized. They include: Supplemental Work Support (SWS), Career Advancement Voucher Program (CAVP), Transitional Child Care (TCC) and transportation services.

Available for downloading is the most current edition of the WFNJ Handbook, (revised April, 2016). Also available is a Spanish version.

This is the first in a series of articles and documents to be issued pertaining to welfare and workforce development.

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