The following testimony, on S2956, was delivered to the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee on January 14, 2021.
Good afternoon Chairman Vitale and members of the Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to provide my testimony on the proposed Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) reforms. My name is Dr. Brittany Holom-Trundy, and I am a senior policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). NJPP is a non-partisan, non-profit research institution that focuses on policies that can improve the lives of low- and middle-income people, strengthen our state’s economy, and enhance the quality of life in New Jersey.
Though these reforms are not the full set of improvements that we would like to see, NJPP strongly supports the changes proposed in S2956 as a response to the Governor’s conditional veto on last year’s legislation. These reforms include needed changes to work requirements for parents, increases in child support pass-throughs to better help families, elimination of graduation requirements for 18-year-olds, and positive language changes. We believe this is a good first step toward a WFNJ that more effectively tackles childhood poverty, helps support low-income families, and builds a stronger future for the state.
As my predecessor Ray Castro’s work has shown, WFNJ provides a key channel of support for parents and children living in poverty. This is particularly true for Black and Latinx families, who are overrepresented amongst low-income families. Year-over-year changes reported throughout the pandemic have continued to emphasize how essential this lifeline is, especially for single-parent families. As people have lost employment, income stability, and family members in record numbers, these safety nets couldn’t be more important.
We hope that the committee will advance these reforms. We also encourage all legislators to consider further improvements, including increases in cash assistance and expanded eligibility for immigrant families in desperate need of support. Now more than ever New Jersey’s parents and children need solid commitments from our state leaders to their well-being and a brighter future.
Thank you for your time.