Hunger Doesn't Take A Vacation
This summer free meals for children and teens are available under the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The federally funded program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. This summer, USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals to children 18 years and under at approved SFSP sites.
Last year, led by such groups as Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) and the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, New Jersey witnessed a 21% increase in the number of local summer meal sites. This year efforts include working more closely with local sponsors to help them get the word out by distributing flyers, hosting kickoff events and working with school districts. Other organizations can aid program participation by distributing flyers in locations where children and families congregate, sending email alerts to their network and by posting information on social media. See the New Jersey specific toolkit.
Parents can find a local summer meal site for their children by any of the following methods:
- Online by typing www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks to access "Find Summer Meals In Your Community"
- Text "food" to 877-877 on a smartphone
- Visiting the njsummermeals.org website and clicking the "Find Summer Meals" button
For more information on child nutrition campaigns visit the New Jersey Food For Thought Campaign webpage.
Senate Call-In To Stop TrumpCare
The United States Senate is scheduled to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act later this month by which 23 million will lose their health care coverage. Political analysts currently believe the TrumpCare bill (American Health Care Act, or AHCA) currently before Congress will pass unless there is overwhelming reaction by the voting public.
"Our pressure makes political change possible", according to Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org. He went on to state "an uprising is needed to stop the Republican bill from passing". The following doable actions have been suggested:
- Use social media to message your friends about the American Health Care Act.
- Contact your U.S. Senator - especially Republican Senators - using the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly to the requested Senate office.
- Call everyday and flood Senate offices with phone calls. (Wednesday, June 13 is a national call-in day.)
- Recruit others to call.
- Join a local Indivisible Group.
- Attend rallies outside a Republican Senator's district office.
Particular emphasis has been placed on calling Senate Republicans from the states of Alaska, Colorado, Ohio, Maine, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Arizona and Nevada. Urge friends and family in these states to take action, too.
A full listing of Senators is available at https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.
LIHEAP Deadline: May 31,2017
The deadline to apply for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is May 31, 2017. Applications with a May 31 postmark will be accepted. Applicants who had previously been denied may reapply if their circumstances have changed, particularly if their monthly income has been reduced.
For details see the Department of Community Affairs March 9 press release. Applications with incomplete documentation will be put into pending status for thirty days, according to a DCA spokesperson.
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 resources 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.
Employment Search Websites
The unemployment rate has dropped significantly in the past few years. However, don't expect cheers from the 1.6 million in the United States who have been jobless for more than six months, or the out-of-work breadwinner in Cape May county where the unemployment rate currently stands at 14.1%.
One of the most read articles on this site is titled, "OnRamp - New Jersey Job Seekers Online Tool" and was posted in 2012. Today's post is a revisit of current employment search tools and programs available to New Jersey job seekers.
The New Start Career Network was created in 2015 to help the long-term unemployed. They "provide older (ages 45+), long-term unemployed New Jersey job seekers with access to free, personalized career services, including web-based information resources and in-person and virtual career coaching." Visit their site. Read their brochure.
One Stop Career Centers are located in all twenty-one counties in New Jersey. They provide: job search assistance, training and education assistance as well as on-site resource rooms (PCs, telephones, etc.).
- Simple upload and use of an existing resume and online tools to easily build a new resume;
- Resume enhancing tools that suggest ways to improve your resume;
- The ability to search job opportunities collected from over 2,400 sources in one place;
- Automatic email notices of new jobs matching your skills and experience;
- Matches to jobs you have the skills for, but may not have considered applying to;
- You control what information an employer can see and how you are contacted by employers who wish to interview you.
LWD provides a page with a listing of Job Fairs throughout the state.
Public libraries provide easy access to employment resources. For example, go visit the Newark Public Library's job and career resources webpage. Reference librarians are more than happy to help. See the New Jersey Libraries page of this website for links to your local public library.
Online Safety Net Tools And Applications
Technology and the widespread use of the Internet has lead 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 sites.
Energy Assistance Update
This is the time of year when many energy customers seek help with their utility bills. Here is some good news and information to point you in the right direction.
The deadline to apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is extended from April 30 to May 31, 2017. The extension applies to heating assistance, cooling assistance and emergency assistance.
Atlantic City Electric has a new program to help financially strapped customers. Eligibility for the Helping Hands Program
will be determined on an individual basis and household income should not exceed 400% of the Federal Poverty Limit. The program will be
administered by the following four organizations:
- People for People Foundation of Gloucester County 856-579-7561
- New Jersey SHARES 866-657-4273
- Affordable Housing Alliance 732-389-2204 or 732-982-8710
- Catholic Charities Diocese of Camden 856-342-4100 or your local Catholic Charities office.
The most popular New Jersey Community Resources page this past week has been Avoiding Utility Shutoffs in New Jersey.
Post-TANF Transportation Programs
Transportation assistance is available for those who are no longer on welfare and now working. These programs are: "Get A Job, Get A Ride" and the "Extended Workpass".
The completed "Get A Job, Get A Ride" application is mailed to New Jersey Transit who will issue a free one month two-zone monthly bus pass or rail pass. A person wishing to apply for the "Extended Workpass" must provide their county welfare agency with monthly pay stubs. This program provides free passes for a six month period. If eligible, the county welfare agency will issue the participant a two party check to be taken to the nearest NJ Transit ticket agent.
Please note that any individual whose case closed within the past 24 months, if now employed, may be eligible for up to six months of transportation if he or she can provide proof of current employment.
Contact a Work First New Jersey case manager for details. The "Get A Job, Get A Ride" and "Extended Workpass" Enrollment Form is available for downloading.
Additional information and links on welfare regulations and benefits are available online, including:
- Post-TANF Support Services That You Need to Know About! a flyer produced in partnership with the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development;
- WFNJ Handbook;
- WFNJ Handbook in Spanish;
- Support for Working Families brochure published by the Division of Family Development;
Creating a 'my Social Security' Account
The Social Security Administration offers a personal online service that allows you to estimate, plan and manage your benefits. This article provides information on how to create an account, some plusses and minuses and a few links.
There are a few requirements. You must have 1) a valid email address; 2) a social security number; 3) a U.S. mailing address; and 4) be at least eighteen years of age. If you do not have an email account you can easily obtain one through such free services as Google, Outlook or Yahoo.
To start the process, visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount and click the button labeled 'Sign In or Create an Account.' You will be required to provide personal information so as to verify your identity. You must choose a username and password to establish and access your new account.
There are a number of features to 'my Social Security' that give you fast service when you need it. If you are applying for other benefits - for example, an application for heating assistance or SNAP (formerly food stamps) you can print out a benefit statement without having to wait for Social Security to mail it to you. You can even save the benefit statement and email it as an attachment! A downside to using the service is that it should be used by a single individual, not to be used by another person on your behalf, so Social Security officials indicate. You also can't use another person's email address, for security reasons.
This online service has many advantages to individuals, to the Social Security Administration and even to other governmental agencies that administer safety net programs. To learn more, visit my Social Security: How To Create An Online Account and watch a video. A training video is also available for social service agencies. Representatives from Social Security are available at 800-772-1213, if there are problems setting up an account.
Resisting Donald Trump
New Jersey's two Senators and twelve Representatives are:
- Robert Menendez - Democrat 202-224-4744
- Corey Booker - Democrat 202-224-3224
- Donald Norcross - Democrat - 1st District 202-225-6501
- Frank LoBiondo - Republican, 2nd District 202-225-6572
- Tom MacArthur - Republican, 3rd District 202-225-4765
- Chris Smith - Republican, 4th District 202-225-3765
- Josh Gottheimer - Democrat, 5th District 202-225-4465
- Frank Pallone, Jr. - Democrat, 6th District 202-225-4671
- Leonard Lance - Republican, 7th District 202-225-5361
- Albio Sires - Democrat, 8th District 202-225-7919
- Bill Pascrell - Democrat, 9th District 202-225-5751
- Donald Payne, Jr. - Democrat, 10th District 202-225-3436
- Rodney Frelinghuysen - Republican, 11th District 202-225-5034
- Bonnie Watson Coleman - Democrat, 12th District 202-225-5801
You can also access this list online by visiting the House Of Representatives Directory of Representatives.