Do You Feel Stuck On Welfare?

“Do you feel STUCK… …on Welfare?” is the title of a brochure produced in partnership with a nonprofit organization, The Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless. It provides information on a number of programs and is written for TANF clients, as well as families who have left welfare. For New Jersey nonprofits that provide counseling to low-income customers it offers useful information for new staff.

A few items in the Coalition’s brochure are worth highlighting. For example:
Employment Disregards provide an incentive to work. Earnings are completely disregarded in the first month of employment. It must be reported within ten days of receiving the first paycheck. Thereafter, 75% of gross earnings are disregarded, for up to six months. If a household remains eligible after the sixth month the disregard falls to 50%. For a full explanation consult an eligibility worker or case manager at your local county welfare agency.

Clients who are working but remain eligible for a partial grant may opt in to the Supplemental Work Support program. An application must be requested for SWS before the cash assistance case closes. Ask to speak to an income eligibility worker.

The brochure also makes references to stopping the clock. Families need to be reminded that welfare is time limited. Unless exempted, cash assistance ends after sixty months. The Supportive Assistance to Individuals and Families (SAIF) program provides intensive case management services to individuals as they approach the 60 month limit.

Families are encouraged to take advantage of a number of Post-TANF benefits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) both federal and state, transportation services, child care, energy assistance (LIHEAP, USF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

This Welfare to Work brochure is available for downloading.

This is the third and last article in a series pertaining to welfare and workforce development.

Supports For Working Families

The majority of adults who leave welfare are often found to be employed in the months after they disconnect from public assistance. Many “welfare leavers” take advantage of popular social programs such as Medicaid, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and school breakfast programs. Other programs are not as well utilized or communicated to those attempting to become self-sufficient. The purpose of this article is to focus on a few programs in New Jersey that are not so commonly known.

Transitional Child Care (TCC) provides a subsidy for the twenty-four months following a TANF case closing. Parents should contact their Case Manager so a referral can be sent to the child care agency in their county. Note: even if a case is closed for reasons other than employment, a parent may be eligible for TCC, if current employed.

Supplemental Work Support (SWS) provides a $200 per month benefit for up to two years to a family that voluntarily withdraws from TANF. The application for SWS must be made prior to the case closing due to employment earnings. To qualify a household must meet the following conditions: 1) working twenty hours or more per week for the past four months, 2) have been on cash assistance for at least six months, 3) still receiving a partial grant prior to case closing. The $200 a month benefit does not count against the five year time limit. In fact, it “stops the clock.”

The Career Advancement Voucher Program (CAVP) allows individuals to obtain additional training or education after welfare. Requirements include: maintaining their current employment, have been working for at least the past four months. A person interested in work-related classes may receive a voucher up to $4000. The benefit is only available within the two years after TANF closing date. For a referral, contact a Work First New Jersey Case Manager.

Additional programs and benefits are available to working families. For information on these and other programs – SNAP, LIHEAP, USF, EITC and the “Get A Job, Get A Ride” program – download the attached documents. The Support for Working Families brochure was published in hard-copy earlier this year by the NJ Division of Family Development. The Post-TANF Support Services That You Need to Know About! flyer was produced in partnership with the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

This is the second in a series of articles and documents to be issued pertaining to welfare and workforce development.

WFNJ Handbook

Twenty years ago “welfare as we know it” was fundamentally changed with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. New requirements and responsibilities are now a standard rule, along with the availability of a number of supportive services. Yet, after two decades, information is not be readily disseminated so welfare clients can make informed decisions in their efforts to become self-sufficient.

Every applicant for cash assistance is given a handbook which gives an overview of the program, available support services, as well as information on time limits, income disregards, work activities, deferrals and sanctions.

The handbook also details the many programs that individuals and families may receive both while receiving assistance and for the two year period following case closing. A number of these programs are under-utilized. They include: Supplemental Work Support (SWS), Career Advancement Voucher Program (CAVP), Transitional Child Care (TCC) and transportation services.

Available for downloading is the most current edition of the WFNJ Handbook, (revised April, 2016). Also available is a Spanish version.

This is the first in a series of articles and documents to be issued pertaining to welfare and workforce development.