Downey Bill to Improve Access to Social Services Clears Assembly Panel

Moving to increase awareness for and enrollment in public assistance and social service programs, a measure (A-4876) sponsored by Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold) to require county welfare agencies to conduct a full eligibility screening of all administered public assistance and social service programs for people who apply for at least one service provided by the agency was approved Thursday by the Assembly Human Services Committee.

“We have a wide array of social services available in New Jersey, and it’s very possible one person could be eligible for multiple programs simultaneously," Downey said.

"This bill is about making sure residents in need are able to take full advantage of assistance opportunities available to them. A little extra help could make all the difference in someone’s life.”

This bill requires county welfare agencies to conduct a full eligibility screening of public assistance and social service programs administered by the agency for each member of the public who submits an application for one, but less than all, of the public assistance and social service programs for which the agency accepts applications.

Under the bill, a “county welfare agency” means that agency of county government, which is charged with the responsibility for determining eligibility for public assistance and social service programs. The term county welfare agency includes, but is not limited to, agencies that may be locally known as the Board of Social Services; the Department of Citizen Services; Division of Welfare; the Division of Social Services; the Division of Temporary Assistance and Social Services; or as the Department of Family and Community Development.

Additionally, “public assistance and social service programs” mean any program administered through a county welfare agency which is authorized to provide assistance or services to needy persons, including but not limited to: the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, the Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) program - which encompasses the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the General Assistance program - and the Medicaid program.


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