Dreams Do Come True

On December 13, 1992 I wished there was someplace to refer families when no other resources were available to help with energy bills. Little did I know then that it would lead to the creation of New Jersey SHARES, a statewide energy nonprofit organization.

Today, I need your help to keep my dream alive and to help New Jersey families stay warm. On February 1 & 2, 2018 NJ SHARES will be holding an event “Cool Down for Warmth” to both raise funds and to make our mission better known in our state of New Jersey.

We’re building an Ice House – yes, an ICE HOUSE – in Newark to highlight the critical importance of heat during the cold winter months.

You can help by making a donation. The average grant needed to restore/maintain utility service is about $400. Your donation makes a difference and may be eligible to be matched dollar for dollar by your utility company. So if you can give $50, it will have the impact of $100.

Read my personal story then visit my fundraising page, New Jersey SHARES Ice House Challenge. Thank you.

For more information on becoming involved, visit NJ SHARES Cool Down for Warmth Fundraising page.

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Winter Termination Program Begins November 15

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has announced the resumption of the Winter Termination Program which protects low and moderate income households from electric and gas termination, if they participate in certain energy programs. The program is in effect from November 15 through March 15.

The Board indicated in their press release that information is also available on various energy assistance programs.

The November 14 press release reads as follows:

Today, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (Board) highlights that November 15th is the beginning of its annual Winter Termination Program (WTP), which protects residential customers of the regulated electric and natural gas utilities in the state, who qualify and enroll in the program, from having their natural gas and/or electric service turned off during the upcoming winter season.

“No one should fear or suffer the consequences from having their heat turned off in the dead of winter,” said Richard S. Mroz, N.J. Board of Public Utilities President. “The regulated utility companies want to work with their customers to ensure that they and their families can stay safe and warm during the winter. Yet it is important to stress that customers should make every effort to pay what they can during the winter months since their past due account balances come due once the Winter Termination Program ends. All too often, we see customers who experience financial hardship when the moratorium ends due to large balances owed. And if customers don’t satisfy their obligation, the utilities can turn off service after March 15.”

The Board’s program runs from November 15, 2017 through March 15, 2018. All customers who are eligible for the WTP are required to enroll in a 12-month budget payment plan with their utility. The utilities are required to consider the customer’s ability to pay when setting up a payment plan. Customers are further required to make good faith payments toward their budget plan. Although service cannot be terminated during this winter moratorium, customers remain liable for the balance of their utility bills once the WTP ends on March 15.

Customers who receive benefits from any one of the following programs are eligible to enroll and be protected by the Winter Termination Program: Lifeline Credit; Federal Home Energy Assistance; Work First New Jersey-Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; Federal Supplemental Security Income; Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled; Work First New Jersey/General Assistance
Benefits; and the Universal Service Fund. The program is also available to customers who fall into a “catch-all” category of people who are unable to pay their utility bills because of circumstances beyond their control, such as unemployment, death of wage earner or illness. In addition to the WTP, eligible customers can seek utility bill assistance help from several other programs. Information about these programs can be accessed on the Board’s website at: www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/assistance/programs/.

Related pages on the New Jersey Community Resources website include:
New Jersey Energy Assistance Programs, including income guidelines and a guide for Avoiding Utility Shutoffs in New Jersey.

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International Rescue Committee Seeks Volunteers

An email was recently sent by New Jersey’s leading refugee resettlement agency seeking volunteers. I urge you to read their message below. You can directly help arriving refugee families.

The International Rescue Committee resettles over 70% of refugees arriving to New Jersey. If you would like to learn more about how refugees arrive in New Jersey, consider attending our Introduction to Refugee Resettlement Webinar, held the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 10:30 am. Please RSVP here.

In addition:

  • IRC provides low cost and quality immigration legal services to anyone in the community. Under the supervision of a Board of Immigration Appeals accredited representative, clients receive assistance with a wide range of immigration related applications, including adjustments of status (green cards), family reunification petitions, employment authorization documents and citizenship applications. The IRC recently launched a new system for initiating citizenship applications online. Start your citizenship application today or call us at 908-351-5116 X116 to speak with our immigration department or schedule a consultation.
  • IRC is seeking community and faith based groups to be paired directly with a newly arriving refugee family through our HOME program (Housing Outreach Mentorship Education). Fill out this survey if your group is interested.

Thanks so much.

Visit IRC’s New Jersey website for additional volunteer opportunities or call Alison Millan, Resettlement Director, at 908-351-5116.

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Operation Stand Down in Morristown

The sixth annual Morristown Veterans Stand Down will take place Thursday, September 28 from 11am to 1pm at the Ukranian American Cultural Center, located at 60 North Jefferson Road in Whippany.

This event offers New Jersey’s homeless and at-risk veterans personalized, one-on-one guidance to over 50 free federal, state, public and private supportive services, as well as information and resources. The event also provides social and personal care, including haircuts, legal resources, health and dental screenings, clothing, nutritious meals, housing referrals, information on VA benefits and employment assistance.

Free transportation for veterans is available for residents of the following counties:

Bergen County:
10:00 AM pickup – Returning veterans after event
1 Bergen County Plaza
Hackensack, NJ (building next to the Courthouse)

Essex County:
9:30 AM pickup – Returning veterans after event
East Orange VA Building #1
385 Tremont Avenue
East Orange, NJ (in front of main building)

Morris County:
10:00 AM pickup – Returning veterans after event
Morristown Train Station
122 Morris Street
Morristown, NJ (at front entrance to train station)

Passaic County:
10:00 AM pickup – Returning veterans after event
401 Grand Street
Paterson, NJ (City Administration Building)

Somerset County:
8:30 AM pickup – Returning veterans after event
Lyons VA Building #53
151 Knollcroft Road
Lyons, NJ

*Sussex County:
9:45 to 10:00 AM pickup – Returning veterans after event
Chatterbox Restaurant Park-and-Ride
1 State Highway 15
Augusta, NJ
*Veterans must contact the County in advance to sign up for the bus by calling (973) 579-0480. Bus will return with Veterans after event ends.

Stand Down in Morristown is organized and coordinated by the nonprofit organization
Community Hope. Their mission is helping individuals, including veterans, and their families, overcome mental illness, addiction, homelessness and poverty by providing housing and support services.

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Volunteers In Medicine: A Whole Village Approach

Health care should be a right. Health advocates in New Jersey and around the country are doing their part on a volunteer basis to bring health care directly to those who cannot afford health insurance. This article is about a number of organizations dedicated to delivering free health care in their communities.

VIM patients earn too much for Medicare and not old enough for Medicare yet. At the end of the month there is little money left to cover the high cost of premiums, co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. This may sound familiar to the one in ten households who are uninsured.

VIM patients tend to have chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The types of conditions typical to middle-aged people, who have worked in service and manual labor, lived with very low income, and rarely “doctored.” Patients that register with VIM receive free, quality primary care, specialists care when available and prescription medicine assistance. Perhaps more importantly, VIM becomes their advocate to ensure continuity of care.

There are four VIM organizations in New Jersey, all part of a nationwide network. They are:

Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative, Inc.
Established: 2009
URL: www.bvmi.org/
Area of Coverage: Bergen County
Office/Telephone: Hackensack, 201-342-2478
Eligibility Criteria: 1)Live in Bergen County; 2)Working and earnings up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines; 3)Do not have health insurance; 4)Do not qualify for Medicaid; 5)Do not qualify for Medicare; 6)Do not qualify for subsidized healthcare

Coastal Volunteers in Medicine
Established: 2013
URL: www.coastalvim.org
Area of Coverage: Southern Ocean County
Office/Telephone: Barnegat, 609-384-0102
Eligibility Criteria: 1)Live in Southern Ocean County; 2)Have no health insurance; 3)Do not qualify for Medicaid; 4)Annual income equal to or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines

Parker Family Health Center
Established: 2000
URL: www.parkerfamilyhealthcenter.org
Area of Coverage: Monmouth County
Office/Telephone: Red Bank, 732-212-0777
Eligibility Criteria: 1)Uninsured and do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid; 2)Annual income is under 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines

Volunteers in Medicine of South Jersey
Established: 2002
URL: www.vimsj.org
Area of Coverage: Atlantic and Cape May Counties
Office/Telephone: Egg Harbor Township, 609-867-6384; Cape May Court House, 609-463-2846
Eligibility Criteria: 1)Uninsured or no usable insurance (high deductable/co-pay); 2)Income no more than 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines

A recent Press of Atlantic City news article provides a look at the Volunteers in Medicine of South Jersey.

To find a VIM clinic in other states visit the national Volunteers in Medicine website.

The Federal Poverty Guidelines are issued annually in late January by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Congress To Block Consumer Protection Rule

A Congressional vote is expected as early as Tuesday, July 25, on a resolution to block a new rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that prohibits class action bans in forced arbitration clauses of consumer contracts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule “would make it easier for consumers to file or join an existing group lawsuit if they are harmed by a financial service provider, such as a bank or credit card company”, according to a statement appearing on the Board’s website.

Action to prevent this consumer rule from going into effect is supported by Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee. The GOP’s bill, H.J. Resolution 111, sponsored by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA) uses the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the Bureau’s rule.

What can you do to protect consumer rights and support the new protections against mandatory arbitration? You can take the following direct action, today:

  • Telephone Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who represents New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District and a member of the House Financial Services Committee. His Washington office number is 202-225-4465. We need as many calls as possible.
  • Ask,”Will the Congressman support ordinary New Jersey people hurt by bad actors and oppose any resolution to take away our day in court?”
  • Support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s force arbitration rule, which restores our 7th Amendment right to our day in court when companies like Wells Fargo engage in widespread wrongdoing.
  • Ask what is the Congressman’s position on H.J. Resolution 111.

Please let me know if you hear anything back on his position by emailing me at my contact page.

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Avoiding Utility Shutoffs in New Jersey

This is the time of year when assistance with energy bills is often needed. Information is available from a number of sources. Visit Avoiding Utility Shutoffs in New Jersey for valuable links.

Need to speak to someone about a pending shutoff? Dial 2-1-1 or call the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities at 800-624-0241.

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