Work First New Jersey 1-year limit may leave many homeless FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 4 Nov 1998 12:35:44 -0400


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http://www.bergen.com/editorials/home19981103.htm
FWD  Bergen Record [New Jersey] editorial -  Nov 3, 1998

OUT IN THE COLD:
OFF WELFARE, BUT STILL
IN NEED OF HELP

The idea behind welfare reform, or Work First New
Jersey as it's called in this state, is to move people from
welfare into the job market. The idea is not to leave them
out in the cold.

But several hundred former welfare recipients, who are
either seeking jobs or working for low wages, may
become homeless as the rental assistance they receive
from the state expires. The new welfare law places a
12-month lifetime limit on emergency housing assistance.

That assistance began to expire last summer. But the state
has granted several extensions since then in order to
prevent people from being evicted. Now the extensions
are expiring, and state welfare officials say at least 533
people who have been labeled "employable" may be
affected. The number is likely to be higher because the
state is counting only people in cities with large numbers
of welfare recipients. Half of the 533 people are in
Newark.

As Staff Writer Ovetta Wiggins has written, some
suburban residents will also lose their aid. Her article in
The Record on Saturday described the plight of Art, a
58-year-old Rutherford resident who is working. Art,
who performs clerical work for the town in exchange for
his rental assistance and food stamps, is appealing the
loss of his housing benefit, saying he can no longer
afford the small studio apartment he has lived in for 14
years.

Social-welfare advocates say people like Art could end up
on the street or in shelters because there is almost no
affordable housing for low-income people in North
 Jersey.

A bill in the state Senate, sponsored by Sen. C. Louis
Bassano, R-Union, would extend housing assistance
until June for welfare recipients who meet all the
requirements of welfare reform but who cannot find
housing. The bill would also cover those seeking
treatment for addiction and those who are getting a high
school equivalency diploma.

The Whitman administration opposes the measure, saying
welfare reform is no longer an entitlement and people
need to end their dependency on the state. Before welfare
reform, recipients were entitled to unlimited emergency
housing assistance.

There is nothing wrong with a limit of some kind, and the
law provides exemptions for "hardship" cases and for the
chronically disabled. But there are always going to be a
few well-intentioned people who are trying to find work
-- or making too little money -- who need more time than
the housing limit provides to become self-sufficient.
Homelessness should not be a part of welfare reform.

That's why groups such as the New Jersey Catholic
Conference and food pantries support the legislation,
because they realize ending the housing assistance
subsidies will mean homelessness for some people. The
New Jersey League of Municipalities, which also
supports the measure, says towns will end up having to
find shelter for them if there are no more extensions.

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http://www.bergen.com/editorials/home19981103.htm

FWD  Bergen Record [New Jersey] editorial -  Nov 3, 1998    


<paraindent><param>right,left</param>OUT IN THE COLD:

OFF WELFARE, BUT STILL

IN NEED OF HELP

</paraindent>

The idea behind welfare reform, or Work First New

Jersey as it's called in this state, is to move people from

welfare into the job market. The idea is not to leave them

out in the cold.


But several hundred former welfare recipients, who are

either seeking jobs or working for low wages, may

become homeless as the rental assistance they receive

from the state expires. The new welfare law places a

12-month lifetime limit on emergency housing assistance.


That assistance began to expire last summer. But the state

has granted several extensions since then in order to

prevent people from being evicted. Now the extensions

are expiring, and state welfare officials say at least 533

people who have been labeled "employable" may be

affected. The number is likely to be higher because the

state is counting only people in cities with large numbers

of welfare recipients. Half of the 533 people are in

Newark.


As Staff Writer Ovetta Wiggins has written, some

suburban residents will also lose their aid. Her article in

The Record on Saturday described the plight of Art, a

58-year-old Rutherford resident who is working. Art,

who performs clerical work for the town in exchange for

his rental assistance and food stamps, is appealing the

loss of his housing benefit, saying he can no longer

afford the small studio apartment he has lived in for 14

years.


Social-welfare advocates say people like Art could end up

on the street or in shelters because there is almost no

affordable housing for low-income people in North

 Jersey. 


A bill in the state Senate, sponsored by Sen. C. Louis

Bassano, R-Union, would extend housing assistance

until June for welfare recipients who meet all the

requirements of welfare reform but who cannot find

housing. The bill would also cover those seeking

treatment for addiction and those who are getting a high

school equivalency diploma.


The Whitman administration opposes the measure, saying

welfare reform is no longer an entitlement and people

need to end their dependency on the state. Before welfare

reform, recipients were entitled to unlimited emergency

housing assistance.


There is nothing wrong with a limit of some kind, and the

law provides exemptions for "hardship" cases and for the

chronically disabled. But there are always going to be a

few well-intentioned people who are trying to find work

-- or making too little money -- who need more time than

the housing limit provides to become self-sufficient.

Homelessness should not be a part of welfare reform.


That's why groups such as the New Jersey Catholic

Conference and food pantries support the legislation,

because they realize ending the housing assistance

subsidies will mean homelessness for some people. The

New Jersey League of Municipalities, which also

supports the measure, says towns will end up having to

find shelter for them if there are no more extensions. 


END FORWARD

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