Heat and Eat: New Jersey Legislature Responds To Protect SNAP

A number of months ago it was disclosed that tens of thousands of seniors, disabled individuals, minor children and other low income New Jersey families again faced possible cuts in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (previously known as food stamps). Yesterday, June 26, the New Jersey Legislature passed legislation to avoid the cuts by tailoring New Jersey policy to requirements spelled out in the federal Farm Bill passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this year.

The legislation, A2956, sometimes referred to as the “Heat and Eat bill” passed both the Assembly and State Senate overwhelmingly. A reprint of the bill is available at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/A3000/2956_R2.PDF. An independent evaluation of the legislation is also available online by the Office of Legislative Services. The bill now awaits action by Governor Christie.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance Available in Eight New Jersey Counties

The following press release was issued on November 1, 2012 by Governor Chris Christie’s office:

Christie Administration Announces Disaster Unemployment Assistance Available in Eight New Jersey Counties Impacted by Storm

Trenton, NJ – The U.S. Department of Labor announced that it approved Governor Chris Christie’s request for eight (8) New Jersey counties to qualify for federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance as a result of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy.

This special assistance program pertains to people in and around portions of New Jersey that were declared a federal disaster area, including Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union counties. Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available for persons, including self-employed individuals, who were living or working in the affected counties at the time of the disaster, and who are unemployed as a direct result of the damages caused by the storm.

At this time, the assistance is available only in connection with those areas declared a federal a disaster area, including Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union counties. Additional counties may be added to the disaster declaration following continued damage assessments by local officials, representatives of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

If you are unemployed because of the disaster that began on Oct. 28, you should FIRST file for unemployment insurance benefits through the Internet by going to www.njuifile.net.

The Internet processes claims faster. However, if needed, people may also file a claim by telephone by contacting the state Department of Labor’s Re-employment Call Centers at:

North Jersey – (201) 601-4100
Central Jersey – (732) 761-2020
South Jersey – (856) 507-2340

A 30-day deadline ending December 3, 2012 is in effect for filing claims resulting from Hurricane Sandy.

For additional information regarding Disaster Unemployment Assistance or for FEMA services please call the FEMA emergency number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. Information is also available via the Internet at www.disasterassistance.gov and www.fema.gov.

For information on all New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development programs and services visit http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/index.html and www.Jobs4Jersey.com.

A Sad Day For New Jersey

For the second time this month Governor Christie decided today to stop construction on the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) tunnel between New Jersey and New York City. Unfortunately the decision to stop the largest infrastructure project underway in the United States will have ramifications that will be felt for years to come and will deprive the region of badly needed jobs and stimulus money.

Although the Governor claims it will allow the state to use about $2.7 billion to bolster the depleted Transportation Trust Fund there are many things he is giving up. New Jersey will have to return more than $200 already spent on the ARC Project. Where will that money come from? New Jersey will be giving up $6 billion in matching funds from the federal government and the Port Authority. Wouldn’t that money generate jobs and have a multiplier effect for the region? Perhaps that is not important.

The Governor did not mention that to get to the jobs of the future require long range planning. How will commuters from New Jersey get to good paying jobs in Manhattan as highways are jammed and no more trains can fit into the 100 year old tunnel currently in use? He did not mention the project would reduce travel time for thousands of commuters. He did not mention the project would cause the value of homes along the route to increase in value which could generate additional tax revenues. Perhaps he did not consider the project would reduce traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.

The New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech issued a press release today that is worth repeating. In it he stated the following: “The Governor’s decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel was a major setback for our state as well as the millions of commuters and families who would benefit from this project. For a Governor who claims to be concerned with money first and foremost, his decision resulted in forfeiting $3 billion in federal funds, $3 billion from the Port Authority, $18 billion in increased property values, and the economic benefits that come from expanding access to higher paying jobs in New York City. The 6,000 new construction jobs and 45,000 permanent jobs which would have been created by this project would have also resulted in greater revenues for the state by taking people off the unemployment line and putting people back to work. When you do the math, the benefits of this project far outweigh even the highest cost overrun predictions.”

Wowkanech went on to add, “As the leader of our state, Governor Christie has the responsibility to do more than just wait for solutions from Washington, DC. A project of this magnitude demands that our Governor should bring his team together to negotiate an acceptable funding option or at least offer an alternative of his own. By taking just two weeks to cancel the largest public works project in the nation, the Governor revealed that his interest in the tunnel has always been no more than skin-deep. With each scrapped project, veto, or layoff, the Governor’s cuts continue to become more about politics and less about policy. For a Governor with a my-way-or-the-highway approach to governing, this makes for a very dangerous combination – one which will likely end up costing our state more in the end. With ARC’s cancellation, perhaps we have already reached this point.”

Perhaps the best quote today but not necessarily the most polite comment came from Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D – Essex) when he said, “Any economist worth his salt will tell you that you can’t cut your way out of a recession.”

If you wish to learn more about what ARC could have done you can visit the official ARC website. However, the site will probably be removed very shortly.

Governor Christie, what are you doing to our state?