Patrick R. Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, testified June 23 before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in support of two bills that would improve the lives of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
The bills – S1829 and S1854– are geared toward helping those enrolled in Work First New Jersey, a state-funded program that helps needy families become self-sufficient.
Under S1829, the benefit levels to recipients of the New Jersey Work First-Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, would increase 10 percent “each of the next four fiscal years, and in years thereafter, the benefits would be adjusted according to the cost of living adjustment applied under the federal Social Security program.”
Currently, a family of three receives the maximum benefit of $424 per month, the same as it was 29 years ago. In his statement on behalf of the Catholic bishops of New Jersey, Brannigan, who also serves as a deacon in St. James Parish, Pennington, testified, “Simply stated, $424 a month does not provide families the same ability to purchase food, clothing and housing as it did three decades ago.”
Bill S1854 calls for repealing the family caps that currently prevent Work First New Jersey grants from increasing as the result of the birth of a child. In his testimony, Deacon Brannigan noted that “these caps deny children help in cases where the parents embraced the precious gift of life.”
On June 27, both the General Assembly and Senate passed the legislation, which now heads to Gov. Chris Christie for consideration.