Sweeney-Vitale Bill To Aid the Homeless Gains Senate Approval
Agree To Governor’s Recommended Revision
Trenton – Legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Joe Vitale that would respond to the crisis situations that can threaten some of the neediest residents of New Jersey with homelessness was approved by the Senate today. The bill, S-866, would extend eligibility for emergency assistance beyond the statutorily established 12 month time limit to certain qualifying individuals who are disabled, care for a disabled dependent, are over 60 years of age, or are chronically unemployed.
The Senate voted to accept Governor Murphy’s recommendation that the extension of eligibility would end five years after the effective date of the bill.
“Homelessness is a treatable and preventable condition that puts people at risk for other hardships,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “This is emergency assistance for those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. If you don’t have a place to live it is difficult to hold a job, maintain good health or provide family members with other basic necessities.”
The state’s Housing Assistance and Housing Hardship Extension programs, which provided assistance to roughly 3,000 people who exhausted welfare-based emergency housing assistance and those who are disabled and awaiting social security insurance benefits, expired in July 2015 with no real replacement in place.
“Because the programs in place were temporary, the assistance it offered didn’t provide the security and certainty for people already facing insecure and uncertain living conditions,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Some individuals have already been left homeless and countless others are struggling to secure housing aid. But they all deserve the stability of a roof over their head.”
In the past, those receiving benefits through the emergency assistance program were granted additional rental assistance beyond the 12 months through pilot programs implemented by the Department of Human Services. The legislation will replace the three-year “pilot” programs with a more permanent emergency assistance plan.
The Senate vote was 36-1.