By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor
The state’s most vulnerable residents have been dealt a blow as Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation that would have increased funding for those receiving welfare assistance.
As it stood, the legislation would have increased funding for the state’s Work First program, or TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The program is geared to help families become self-sufficient. It also offers job search and family counseling resources.
Currently, a family of three receives the maximum benefit of $424 per month, the same as it was 29 years ago. Additional legislation would have repealed the family caps that currently prevent Work First grants from increasing due to the birth of a child. Christie vetoed both bills June 30.
Upcoming Monitor series takes closer look at poverty
Marie Gladney, executive director of Mount Carmel Guild in Trenton, said it was disappointing because families that receive TANF are working to improve themselves.
“It is a sad commentary when programs that help the most vulnerable populations are used as bargaining chips to negotiate a budget,” she said. “A blow to the program like this sets us backward in alleviating poverty.”
In addition, she said she expects other state and nonprofit agencies to see an influx of people needing help with funding to more welfare programs being cut.
“It leaves all other agencies that do help wringing their hands,” Gladney said.
According to most recent U.S. Census data, the poverty rate in New Jersey has grown from 8.7 percent to 11.1 percent in the last decade. Nearly 1 million people in the state live in poverty.
Patrick R. Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, had testified June 23 before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in support of the two bills, saying, “Simply stated, $424 a month does not provide families the same ability to purchase food, clothing and housing as it did three decades ago.”
In reference to family caps, he testified that “these caps deny children help in cases where the parents embraced the precious gift of life.”