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Executive Letter

Jim Jacob, President & CEO of NJ SHARES

Despite recent news that the economy is rebounding slightly, we at NJ SHARES are seeing a very different picture. State unemployment levels are still exceptionally high, forcing many households that have never before sought help to do so now.

Since the turn of the year, large numbers of first-time applicants have come to us with an urgent need for energy bill assistance. No one should have to sacrifice necessary food and medicines to keep their homes warm in the winter and cool during dangerously hot days in summer. For many households, energy bill payment relief can stop a household debt spiral before it starts.

This month, news emerged showing that for New Jersey’s most vulnerable, the economic crisis is deepening. The Kids Count Report 2009, published by the Association for Children of New Jersey, showed that in Newark – where some of the lowest income New Jerseyans reside – child poverty is again on the rise, reaching a rate of 35%, compared to the state rate of 12%. With current state fiscal crisis, our elected officials and state institutions will be challenged to provide help to those in crisis. In this climate, organizations such as NJ SHARES have never been more important.

This year, NJ SHARES will again be challenged to provide help for thousands of individuals and families. We would like to express our gratitude to our agency partners, without whom we could never fulfill our mission. As agencies out in the community, you are our connection to people in crisis, and we value your hard work and partnership to not only help us provide energy, water and telephone bill assistance, but also for your efforts to alleviate the broader challenges faced by our state’s most vulnerable households.

We would also like to thank our legislative partners, who we know are working to address budgetary constraints with the need to address the social and economic problems faced by many New Jerseyans. To our many supporters and donors, thank you for your continued partnership.

Best regards,

Jim Jacob

What's NEw

Mid-Atlantic and Northeast States to Receive Less LIHEAP Funds in 2010

This month, the Obama administration released $490 million in emergency heating funds, using a formula that took into account colder-than-normal temperatures and, for the first time, unemployment levels. Both factors favored the South, so Sun Belt states reaped the biggest gains. NJ SHARES and its partner agencies share the concern of mid Atlantic and Northeast states, which will not receive as much emergency funds this year as a result.

LIHEAP Action Day Cancelled; Awaiting New Date

The National Fuel Funds Network's LIHEAP Action Day, which gives the state an opportunity to advocate together for LIHEAP funding, was scheduled for February 10 in Washington, D.C., but the Blizzard of 2010 had other plans. As we wait to see if LIHEAP Action Day will be rescheduled, we will look for other opportunities to let our Federal lawmakers know the emergent state of affairs.

NJ Poverty Report Calls for Coordinated State Approach & Goal-Setting

The Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) Poverty Research Institute (PRI) released a report in February, entitled “Poverty Benchmarks 2010: Assessing New Jersey’s Progress in Combating Poverty.” The report maintains that the current economic climate has created both an increased need for government assistance programs and a significantly reduced capacity to fund them.

According to the report, “Reconciling these opposing forces presents the new governor with an immense immediate challenge. Recognition and understanding of the hardships facing people of low income, particularly at this time of economic crisis, is more important than ever and will require intense commitment from State leadership to avoid catastrophic consequences for people in poverty.”

The report cited food insecurity and housing affordability as top concerns for New Jersey people in poverty.

Antipoverty Network Meets to Discuss Impact of State Budget Cuts

NJ SHARES participated in an urgent meeting of the Anti-Poverty Network this month. The meeting was called to discuss the impact of recent State budget cuts on people in poverty. Participants set in motion strategic plans to address the organization’s response to New Jersey’s fiscal problems. They also discussed strategies for reaching decision makers in the State House and Legislature.

‘Kids Count’ Report Shows Child Poverty in Newark is on the Rise

Newark Kids Count 2009, released by the Association for Children of New Jersey, shows Newark families grappling with greater poverty, rising unemployment and a growing demand for help in meeting the most basic needs. According to the report, Newark families are relying on critical safety net programs, often in greater numbers than families in the state as a whole. The report also indicates that what is already a challenging environment for all New Jersey residents is even tougher for Newark families.

After several years of declining child poverty in the city, the rate is back up to 35%, compared to the state rate of 12%. Newark’s unemployment rate is 14%. And, the 52% of households in Newark spending more than the recommended 30% of income on rent is higher than the state average.

A bright spot is that Newark’s infant mortality rate dropped 37% from 2002-2006 (the most recent data available,) compared to the state’s 8% decrease over the same period. And, median family income in Newark rose 34% over the four-year period ending in 2008. However, the city’s median income is still well below the state average – roughly one half.

Joann Williams-Swiney, left, director of New Community Corporation’s Family Resource Center in Newark, explains the NJ SHARES application process to Chanisa Baxter of East Orange. - Photo taken by Angela Stewart of NCC.

New Community Corp Takes in Most Applications for NJ SHARES

New Community Corporation’s (NCC) Family Resource Center processed 1,359 applications for people seeking help paying energy bills last year, the most of any agency in NJ SHARES’ statewide network. NCC is one of the largest and most comprehensive community development agencies in the country. It offers an array of services to thousands of individuals and families, ranging from job training and health care to housing and education. The Family Resource Center is located in the Pathmark Shopping Center on Bergen Street in Newark.

NJ SHARES Chairwoman Joyce Campbell Testifies on Affordable Housing Bill

Joyce Campbell, Associate Executive Director for Catholic Charities and Chairwoman of the NJ SHARES Board of Directors, testified this month on the affordable housing bill, which, if passed, will abolish the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

Ms. Campbell’s testimony focused on the burden of housing costs on many individuals and families in the state: “Almost half of all renters in the state spend more than the recommended 30% of income on housing. For low income families, that percentage is higher, with almost 450,000 children living in homes where so much money is spent on housing that little is left for food, clothing, medicine and utilities.” Campbell asserted that while COAH may not have been as effective as many would have liked, abolishing it, and other regulations in this legislation, does not solve the problem.

Catholic Charities Archdioceses of Newark offers New Support Service

The Catholic Charities Archdioceses of Newark has launched “Neighborhood Connections” - a program to connect northern New Jersey clients with resources that overcome barries to employment, such as social services, daycare, energy assistance, counseling, transportation, etc.

Neighborhood connections is developing and maintaing a comprehensive and user-friendly online directory that will map support services available. The databased is expected to launch in March 2010.

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Phone: 609-883-1626 | Toll Free: 866-657-4273 | Fax: 609-883-6364 | Email
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New Jersey SHARES
1901 North Olden Avenue Extension, Suite 1A | Ewing, NJ 08618
Phone: 609-883-1626 | Toll Free: 866-657-4273 | Fax: 609-883-6364 | Email
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