Energy Assistance Update

This is the time of year when many energy customers seek help with their utility bills. Here is some good news and information to point you in the right direction.

The deadline to apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is extended from April 30 to May 31, 2017. The extension applies to heating assistance, cooling assistance and emergency assistance.

Atlantic City Electric has a new program to help financially strapped customers. Eligibility for the Helping Hands Program will be determined on an individual basis and household income should not exceed 400% of the Federal Poverty Limit. The program will be administered by the following four organizations:

The most popular New Jersey Community Resources page this past week has been
Avoiding Utility Shutoffs in New Jersey.

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Post-TANF Transportation Programs

Transportation assistance is available as a Post-TANF benefit for those leaving welfare due to employment. These programs are: “Get A Job, Get A Ride” and the “Extended Workpass”.

The completed “Get A Job, Get A Ride” application is mailed to New Jersey Transit who will issue a free one month two-zone monthly bus pass or rail pass. A person wishing to apply for the “Extended Workpass” must provide their county welfare agency with monthly pay stubs. This program provides free passes for a six month period. If eligible, the county welfare agency will issue the participant a two party check to be taken to the nearest NJ Transit ticket agent.

Please note that any individual whose case closed within the past 24 months, if now employed, may be eligible for up to six months of transportation if he or she can provide proof of current employment.

Contact a Work First New Jersey case manager for details. You can download the “Get A Job, Get A Ride” and “Extended Workpass” Enrollment Form here.

Additional information and links on welfare regulations and benefits are available online, including:

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Creating a ‘my Social Security’ Account

The Social Security Administration offers a personal online service that allows you to estimate, plan and manage your benefits. This article provides information on how to create an account, some plusses and minuses and a few links.

There are a few requirements. You must have 1) a valid email address; 2) a social security number; 3) a U.S. mailing address; and 4) be at least eighteen years of age. If you do not have an email account you can easily obtain one through such free services as Google, Outlook or Yahoo.

To start the process, visit and click the button labeled ‘Sign In or Create an Account.’ You will be required to provide personal information so as to verify your identity. You must choose a username and password to establish and access your new account.

There are a number of features to ‘my Social Security’ that give you fast service when you need it. If you are applying for other benefits – for example, an application for heating assistance or SNAP (formerly food stamps) you can print out a benefit statement without having to wait for Social Security to mail it to you. You can even save the benefit statement and email it as an attachment! A downside to using the service is that it should be used by a single individual, not to be used by another person on your behalf, so Social Security officials indicate. You also can’t use another person’s email address, for security reasons.

This online service has many advantages to individuals, to the Social Security Administration and even to other governmental agencies that administer safety net programs. To learn more, visit my Social Security: How To Create An Online Account
and watch a video. A training video is also available for social service agencies. Representatives from Social Security are available at 800-772-1213, if there are problems setting up an account.

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Resources For The Resistance

Since November millions of Americans have become involved in the political process, some for the first time in their lives. A large number have been attending events on the local level on a regular basis, myself included. The purpose of this article is to provide a number of resources available online so you can become involved or learn more of the issues.

Websites and email lists that have been brought to my attention are:

  • Building Channels for Change. This website has a tagline, “connecting people for causes in Philadelphia”. If you want to “more easily connect with progressive organizations” you should check their calendar first.
  • Nation Forward is a hub for local groups in Southeast Pennsylvania to post information. It has a number of web pages including: Issues, Action Alerts, Turning PA Blue, Indivisible and Resistance Reading.
  • Town Hall Project lets you know when and where members of Congress will be holding Town Hall meetings.
  • Resources for Resistance has been described as “an amazing document with links to a ton of resources.” No use trying to reinvent the wheel.
  • Rogan’s List: Today’s “To-do” List is a wonderful blog written daily by Susan Rogan, a retired university librarian. If your agenda is to make at least one call a day this is the source to consult everyday. Almost as inspiring as grandchildren.

An example of the valuable information available from the sites and resources above: Four days after the presidential inauguration (sorry, I don’t like using his formal name) Rogan’s List publicized both the White House switchboard phone number, 202-456-1414, and the White House comment line, 202-456-1111. The comment line had been shutdown but due to pressure it is again operational, but only during the hours of 9am to 4pm (eastern time).

For other Philadelphia area Resistance groups see my blog article of January 30th or use the shortlink:

Make your voice heard. Daily.

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State Rental Assistance Enrollment Begins March 6

Pre-applications for low income elderly, disabled and families will be available online starting Monday, March 6 under the State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP), according to a press release and public notice issued by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

The application process will be conducted online only beginning Monday, March 6, 2017 at 10am and continuing to Friday, March 10 at 5pm.

If selected, applicants must meet the income limits of the county where they are being subsidized and provide proof of residency. Income limits are county-specific, based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines of 30% – 40% area median income.

Applications will be open in three categories:

  • Elderly – the head of household must be 62 years of age or over
  • Family – the head of household is at least 18 years of age or an emancipated minor; with or without children
  • Disabled – the head of household or spouse is permanently disabled

The online pre-applications will be entered into a database and applicants will be selected through a lottery process, all to be placed on a waiting list. Submission does not guarantee placement on a SRAP waiting list. No paper applications are available. Applicants are required to furnish an email address. Individuals selected by the lottery will be notified via email which may take several weeks.

The online application process begins Monday, March 6. Visit

More information is available from the Department of Community Affairs on the following web pages:
Public Notice (English)
Public Notice (Spanish)
Application FAQ (English)
Application FAQ (Spanish)
SRAP Statewide Waiting List Open Enrollment Website

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Dear Senator Toomey

A dramatic speech was given this month by an advocate at a ‘Tuesdays with Toomey’ event in Philadelphia. Myra Young provides the human side to the story of why there are demonstrations all across the United States. There are millions of Myra Young’s in our country, all struggling to make ends meet, all wondering how they will put food on the table, all living paycheck to paycheck.

Take a few minutes to read and share the TalkPoverty Weekly article about her and listen to her speech at a recent #TuesdayswithToomey event.

The following is a version of Ms. Young’s remarks made on February 7, 2017. The comments should be intended to every United States Senator and Representative. Send a copy to your elected officials.

Dear Senator Toomey,

You don’t know me. You have never met me, or answered any of my calls. But you have power and influence over my life—and my children’s well-being—and that scares me.

So Senator Toomey, let me introduce myself: My name is Myra Young. I’m a mother, an advocate, and I live in poverty.

I work hard to take care of my family. For the last 22 years I worked as a certified nursing assistant, but I still lived in poverty and needed government assistance to put food on the table and to keep my kids healthy. Two months ago, the company I worked for closed and I was laid off. Now without my job, my struggle is even more difficult. I only receive $33 a month in food stamps—barely enough to get my family through one healthy meal. My kids need fruit and vegetables, but I simply cannot afford them.

Last week, my 10-year-old son asked, “Mom, why do you cry so much?”

I told him, “Because I want to take care of you and your sister, but it’s so hard.”

But why is it so hard, Senator?

It’s hard because wages are too low.
It’s hard because we have to beg for scraps when we need help.
And it’s hard because of politicians like you, Senator Toomey.

You have everything I want: a safe home to go to, a job that pays a good wage, and a family in good health. But you want to take away the little bit I have by
cutting programs that help me — and people like me — feed my family. That hurts us. That keeps us down. And that makes me angry.

You are wrong, Senator Toomey.
You are wrong if you don’t protect these programs.
You are wrong if you don’t care about my family.

Would you be able to survive one week in my shoes? Would you be able to manage the daily struggle of trying to feed your family? Manage the stress of not knowing if you will be able to pay rent for the month? Manage the fear that your child may need health care that you cannot afford?

If I were in your shoes, and had the power to help a mother with two disabled children, I would do it. I would make sure she has the services she needs to care for her family. I would take care of the more than 1.6 million people in Pennsylvania who live paycheck to paycheck.

Senator Toomey, as a member of Witness to Hunger, my sisters and I will continue to speak out and fight for the needs of our children, families, and communities.

It’s your responsibility to do the same.

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Today Is National 2-1-1 Day

With every passing year, new partnerships are made between NJ 2-1-1 and government and community organizations. These partnerships establish clear pathways for people to follow when help is needed. In celebration of national 2-1-1 Day, we celebrate how 2-1-1 makes help happen in New Jersey.

In 2016 NJ 2-1-1 connected 363,627 people with services they might otherwise have missed. NJ 2-1-1 community resource specialists answered 155,737 calls for assistance. Another 5,835 calls were forwarded directly to state hotlines. Our website received 202,055 visitors.

Our partnerships with United Ways across New Jersey, as well as state and local government help connect people in-need with existing services and programs. In 2016 our partnerships and special initiatives took us above and beyond traditional information and referral and enabled us to make help happen. See our Year in Review.

Since 2005 NJ 2-1-1 has been providing residents of our state with connections to essential resources that often move callers in crisis from despair to hope. “While many of the calls we receive come from families who are looking for solutions to the most basic of needs like utility assistance, food and affordable housing,” states NJ 2-1-1 board president Gina Plotino, “we answer calls for many
other things too, such as mental health counseling, childcare or transportation. Call 9-1-1 for emergencies. Call 2-1-1 for everything else.” With a resource database of nearly 3,000 agencies and more than 10,000 programs and services, NJ 2-1-1 is the easiest place to start to find a solution to any problem relating to health and human service needs.

Source: A February 10, 2017 email titled, “The Easiest Place to Start” from the Executive Director of the NJ 2-1-1 Partnership.

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