Online Safety Net Tools and Applications, Part II

The purpose of this article is to alert you to a number of safety net applications that can be downloaded or completed directly online. They cover a variety of topics, including programs for seniors, financial assistance, child care, energy, utilities and welfare.

There is a section of this site’s community resource page known as the ‘Public Benefits Corner’ that provides links to a number of these online or downloadable applications. There are links for the following:

  • NJ FamilyCare application
  • Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD), Senior Gold, and Medicare Savings Programs – programs for seniors
  • Child Support Services
  • Subsidized Child Care
  • LIHEAP/USF/Weatherization – one application to apply for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Universal Service
    Fund (USF) and the Weatherization Assistance Program
  • Communications Lifeline program for Verizon landline customers
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – how to find your local WIC agency
  • State Unemployment Insurance
  • State Temporary Disability Insurance
  • Transportation Programs for former TANF clients

Links to these safety net programs and applications are available in the
Public Benefits Corner of this website. Knowing where to go online is the first step.

Online Safety Net Tools And Applications

Technology and the widespread use of the Internet have led to more and more safety net programs being placed online. This website has made a concerted effort over the years to make those applications easier to find. However, knowing where to go for government benefits or to a nonprofit’s office can be a hit or miss operation. This article hopes to highlight a number of public benefit websites, online applications and a few software programs known as pre-screening tools. Links to them can be found on this site’s community resource page or site map under the title of Public Benefits Corner.

Benefits.gov is the official benefits website of the U.S. government. Introduced in 2002, it offers online access to information provided by seventeen federal agencies. Users can browse information by category, state or federal agency. New Jersey residents can discover information on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as food stamps), medicaid program, unemployment insurance, Head Start, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), WIC, Weatherization Assistance Program and more.

Social Security’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool, according to their site, “helps you find out if you could get benefits that Social Security administers. Based on your answers to questions, this tool will list benefits for which you might be eligible and tell you more information about how to qualify and apply.” BEST is not an application for benefits. It will screen for the following benefits: Medicare, Social Security Disability, Social Security Retirement, Social Security Survivors, Special Veterans and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool can be used to determine if you may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits. Buttons on the site explain how to use the tool as well as a basic Internet tutorial. The site is maintained by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

This is the first in a series of articles on New Jersey websites with safety net applications and pre-screening tools. The Public Benefits Corner here has links to eighteen such sites.

33,000 New Jerseyans Losing Unemployment in Need of Help

In the past week news articles have reported that nearly 33,000 New Jersey workers are exhausting their extended unemployment benefits. Although we are also hearing about a few positive economic indicators, one of the last one’s to improve is the unemployment rate. The state estimates an additional 3500 to 4000 individuals will be losing their unemployment benefits every week for the balance of 2009.

Where can these individuals and families turn to so they can feed their children or get aid so their utilities don’t get cut off? Aside from temporary assistance programs (medicaid, food stamps, cash assistance, etc. available at county welfare agencies or job seeking services at local One Stop Career Centers which are co-located with the state Employment Service, there are a few other resources or tools that many still don’t know about.

Two valuable but underutilized tools or resources are: 2-1-1 and NJHelps.

2-1-1 is both a telephone number and a statewide database maintained by a partnership of United Way agencies and the state of New Jersey. The system went statewide in 1995 after being piloted in a few counties in 2002. Their website has been supplying information since 1996. Many of us in the social service field are aware that not knowing who or where to turn to can be a very frustrating and emotional experience. 2-1-1 helps to navigate the complexities of the health and social services network. Give them a call or check their website at http://www.nj211.org.

NJHelps is a state run website located at www.njhelps.org that is a self-screening tool for about 28 state and federal programs. It has the potential for assessing -but not actually approving – eligibility for such programs as food stamps, FamilyCare, energy assistance, and cash assistance. It provides additional information in such areas as addiction, child and family programs, employment, food and nutrition, health services, housing, mental health services, and services for the disabled and seniors. Again, the screening tool does not determined eligibility but it can certainly point an individual or family in the right direction.

These tools and programs have been publicized on the New Jersey Community Resources website for a number of years. This website tries to put everything under an easy to navigate roof. For example, on the community resources page is a section known as the Public Benefits Corner which have application forms for many programs all in one place.

Other useful pages on the New Jersey Community Resources website include the following: information on all the state energy assistance programs, how to avoid a utility shutoff, or knowing who is protected under the Winter Termination Program. Other pages help to locate the address or website of their state legislator or members of Congress. It never hurts to let representatives know what is going on.

The Department of Human Services, in an effort to assist the thousands of families who will be seeking help very shortly, has compiled a Quick Reference Guide to Social Services and Housing Resources. Feel free to distribute and circulate this very useful sheet.

For additional information, send an email to: info”at”njcommunityresources.info. (Substitute “@” for “at”.)