Work Rule Is Cutting New Jersey Welfare Rolls

Friday, 23 Mar 2012 05:07 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Thousands of New Jersey welfare applicants are being denied benefits because of a rule that they either attend job training classes or offer proof they’re looking for a job, which is saving the state money but drawing complaints from advocates for the poor.
 
The Christie administration, which pushed for the new rules almost a year ago, says the jobs requirement is intended to improve welfare recipients’ odds of finding work and lower the assistance rolls, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
 
Advocates for the poor, however, complain New Jersey created an enrollment obstacle that many of the state’s more vulnerable residents cannot meet, and in the long run, the state will spend more money.

They say many who apply for general assistance are not able, because of extreme poverty, mental disorders, or other reasons, to apply for jobs or attend job training.
 
The WorkFirst NJ program allows monthly payments of between $140 and $210, which has not changed since 1986, and can be collected for a lifetime maximum of 60 months. The lower amounts go to single, employable adults.
 
New Jersey recipients have had a work requirement for several years, and if they did not comply, they lost benefits. However the Christie administration’s rules eliminate emergency funds the recipients received to tide them over during a qualifying period.
 
Now, payment is retroactive after the requirements are met. However, the state might also eliminate the retroactive benefit, which would save $1.1 million.
 
Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year anticipates spending even less on welfare, based on a further declining enrollment.

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