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Gregory C. Dunlap, Vice President – Customer Operations at PSE&G accepts the NJ SHARES “Neighborhood Hero” Award on behalf of PSE&G
NJ SHARES Celebrates Partnership with PSE&G
Late last year, NJ SHARES named PSE&G a recipient of our “Neighborhood Hero” Award. Gregory C. Dunlap, Vice President – Customer Operations at PSE&G accepted the award on the company’s behalf. Additionally, Yvette Beckett Roland, Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly, read a legislative proclamation in honor of NJ SHARES 15th Anniversary year at the event.
“NJ SHARES is honored to recognize PSE&G for their continued dedication and hard work in support of our mission,” said Jim Jacob, President of NJ SHARES. “We greatly value our growing partnership with PSE&G year to year. Their commitment to our organization has allowed us to consistently respond to the financial needs of all New Jersey households looking for help and energy assistance.”
The Staff of The Puerto Rican Action Board
The Puerto Rican Action Board (PRAB)
NJ SHARES is fortunate to partner with more than 240 agencies around the state. Each organization has a different mission and focus but all provide holistic solutions to their community. This month we want to spotlight PRAB.
The Puerto Rican Action Board (PRAB) is a comprehensive Human Services Organization in Middlesex County, New Jersey which provides a comprehensive range of essential services for children, youth, families and senior citizens. PRAB delivers need-based assistance to low and moderate-income residents of Central New Jersey and serves as advocates for those seeking to live productive, self-sufficient lives.
Cuqui Rivera – LIHEAP Supervisor – shared, “We are truly grateful to be able to work with NJ SHARES in our efforts to assist Middlesex County residents through our energy assistance programs. Through NJ SHARES we are able to broaden our reach to families with a slightly higher income range that we are not able to help through the LI-HEAP resources we have…THANK YOU NJ SHARES”. Photographed at PRAB, left to right are: Christina Rodriguez, Niashia Nicholson – Volunteer, Paula Kosakowski, Shaniqua McClenton, Anika Belnavis – Volunteer, Jacqueline Martinez Montalvo, Yvonne Rodriguez, Catherine Viera, Elaine Peart, Indira Martir, Rosa Torres. Kneeling: left to right are Sabrina Estefan, Evelyn Reyes, Cuqui Rivera – LIHEAP Supervisor, Elianny Fernandez, and Nydia Rivera. Not pictured from the Perth Amboy Office: Marisol Otero, Madelina Taveras, Anabelle Andujar – Volunteer
Jim Jacob, NJS's President and CEO
There is no avoiding it – winter is upon us yet again. The cold winter season seems to affect us all differently. For some, digging out cars or shoveling sidewalks buried under piles of snow takes its toll. For others, ice and slippery roadways strike worry into the hearts of those trying to safely make their way to intended destinations.
However, for far too many people, the chilling cold of a winter season triggers a crisis situation. The increasing cost of utility bills causes folks to slip deeper and deeper into financial debt. For a neighbor in need, many times all that is needed is a little patience, understanding, guidance – and help.
That is where we step in. NJ SHARES encourages those in need of assistance to reach out to us in their time of need. No one should have to face a financial predicament alone.
NJ SHARES continues to help households through temporary financial downturns by offering assistance with utility bills. In most cases, our help can make the difference between a family or individual sinking into poverty or being able to weather the winter season.
There are a wide variety of state and federal programs available to help families struggling with difficult economic circumstances during these cold winter months. Each year, I tell you about the merits of programs such as the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Winter Termination Program (WTP), the Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Universal Service Fund (USF) and the TRUE and PAGE programs funded by the State. However, this month, I’d like to remind you of some of the other assistance programs available in the state of New Jersey that we share with those in need.
New Jersey Community Resources – www.njcommunityresources.info – is an important information source for New Jersey residents. Founded and maintained by Michael R. Swayze, At-Large Member of NJ SHARES’ Board of Directors, the site is designed so that residents can readily find, share and benefit from online information about the various energy and utility assistance programs available to help residents in need. The site includes directories containing information about elected officials, libraries, transportation websites and various community agencies; detailed information on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); rules and guidelines to protect consumers against unnecessary utility disconnections; and lists of public or private energy assistance programs throughout the state.
The Anti-Poverty Network is another important resource for New Jersey residents in need of information or assistance. This organization seeks to prevent, reduce and end poverty throughout the state of New Jersey through: information-sharing; community-education; partnership-building; providing a framework for public discourse on the causes, effects, and remedies of poverty; and advocating for policies and programs that prevent, reduce, and end poverty.
New Jersey’s workforce members who are in financial difficulty may also be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families. Originally developed by Congress as a way to offset the burden of social security taxes and provide an incentive to work, this special credit help you keep more of what you earned by reducing the amount of taxes owed by eligible workers. When EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit. Qualified New Jersey residents may also be eligible to have their taxes prepared free of charge through this unique program. For information about the New Jersey EITC, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/eitcinfo.shtml
NJ SHARES will always be a safety-net for households in emergency or crisis situations. Our community partners and agencies, along with our corporate, foundation and individual supporters are vital to NJ SHARES’ continued success. Likewise, the generous support of our donors, as well as our legislative and agency partners, make is possible for us to do the work we do each day – but most especially during these cold winter months. Without your continued support, we would be unable to provide our New Jersey neighbors with the financial assistance, support and resources they need in order to stay safe and warm.
|a message from your legislator
Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer
A Message from Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer (D) of the 36th Legislative District
This past month we had a blizzard scare that shut down schools and businesses across the State, leaving us all stranded at home. During these harsh winter months, we realize how critical it is to have the basic necessity of heat in our homes to keep our families safe. However, the reality is, not every family can afford their monthly utility bills. In a recent report by the national relief charity Feeding America, 69 percent of the households that rely on the food charity have at some point chosen between paying for utilities and paying for food.
However, this is not only a national problem; this is a New Jersey problem. More than one-third of families in New Jersey struggle to afford basic household necessities and this can be attributed to the high cost of living in New Jersey.
In order to meet basic house-hold needs in 2010 the average New Jersey family had to earn $58,500 and a single adult had to earn $25,368; nationwide the designation was $22,113 for a family and $11,344 for a single adult. This means a budget that enables self-sufficiency in New Jersey is almost double the national average. Since more than half of all jobs in New Jersey pay less than $40,000 a year, hardworking families across the state are being forced to choose between basic necessities to reduce their expenses. [i]
This is why organizations such as NJ SHARES and their 320 organizational sponsors, which provide utility grants and education, are so important to making sure every New Jersey family can meet their utility burden. Utilities can consume a large percentage of a family’s earnings and these hardworking people need assistance. Further, we must remember to ensure that those who are most vulnerable are given assistance; 52 percent of NJ SHARES’ recipients had a child 18 or younger in the home and 19 percent had a household member over the age of 60.
As we weather the last few storms of winter, we must keep in mind those who do not have the ability to meet their basic household needs. For example, a donation to the local food pantry might allow a family to save enough money to pay for heat this February. As a state legislator, it is my hope to continue to develop legislation that helps ensure hard working New Jersey families do not have to make the choice between feeding their children and paying their utility bills.
-- Gary S. Schaer represents the 36th Legislative District, which includes parts of Bergen and Passaic counties.
[i] ALICE: Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed. United Way. Report. September 2014.
Reminder: NJ SHARES’ Board Sets New Policy, Expedites Relief to Households Without Utilities
Just a reminder that the NJ SHARES Board of Directors recently set a policy to expedite relief to households without utility service at the time of application. These clients will need to meet the income and application requirements, but will not need to obtain a denial letter from the TRUE and PAGE program.
The policy is in effect now through the 2015 operating year, and was decided after an analysis of a pilot program that spanned November 1, 2014 through December 12, 2014.
The client’s termination status will be confirmed with the utility provider during the verification process before an approval is issued. A shut off notice is not a qualifier for this utility service restoration program – however, qualifying households who have utility service and are behind in their utility bill payments can still apply for NJ SHARES with a denial letter from the TRUE and PAGE program.
For questions on the new policy or if training is required, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
NJ DHS/Division of Family Development
NJ Department of Human Services 2014 Earned Income Tax Credit Update
The Earned Income Tax Credit website (www.njeitc.org) has been updated in preparation for this upcoming tax season. You can access the Flyer and Fact Sheets here: Flyer and Fact Sheet
The 2014 eligibility income numbers and maximum credit amounts are listed below and are available on the www.njeitc.org site as well.
You May Be Eligible
If you worked full- or part-time or you were self-employed in 2014, you may qualify.
To qualify, your earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must be less than:
• $46,997 ($52,427 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
• $43,756 ($49,186 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
• $38,511 ($43,941 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
• $14,590 ($20,020 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children
For the 2014 Tax year, you could receive a maximum federal credit of:
• $6,143 with three or more qualifying children
• $5,460 with two qualifying children
• $3,305 with one qualifying child
• $496 with no qualifying children
And a maximum NJ state credit of:
• $1228 with three or more qualifying children
• $1092 with two qualifying children
• $661 with one qualifying child
• $99 with no qualifying children
(Investment income must be $3,350 or less for the year.)
You can find out if you are eligible and get an estimate of your credit by visiting the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) EITC Assistant
Save The Date: March 15th – End of WTP Protection Period
Don’t forget that March 15th is the end of the Winter Termination Program (WTP) protection period.
WTP is a program administered by the NJ Board of Public Utilities that protects customers from having their gas or electric shut off between November 15th and March 15th each year.
The program is for residential gas and electric customers who participate in such programs as:
- Work First New Jersey/Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (WFNJ/TANF)
- Lifeline Utility Assistance program
- Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD)
An additional “catch-all” category is included for people unable to pay their utility bills because of circumstances beyond their control such as unemployment or illness.
Customers are required to call the specific utility, request protection under the Winter Termination Program and explain why you need this protection.
For more information on the Winter Termination Program, please call 1-800-624-0241.
Social Security Administration
Social Security Administration Update
How To Apply Online For Retirement Benefits?
The most convenient way to apply for Social Security
Think www.socialsecurity.gov first!!!
Why should I apply online for Social Security Retirement Benefits?
Social Security offers an online retirement application that you can complete in as little as 15 minutes. It’s so easy. Better yet, you can apply from the comfort of your home or office at a time most convenient for you. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative.
In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed.
How secure is my personal information?
We use the most secure technology on the Internet to keep your information private.
How do I apply online?
Applying Online For Retirement Benefits (watch the following Online CDs)
Please click below:
Is the process easy to follow?
Yes. We ask only the questions that pertain to your situation, and we provide links to more information. Also, there are examples to help you. You can print or save a copy of the information you enter.
- You must be at least 61 years and 9 months old to apply for retirement benefits.
- You should apply for benefits no more than four months before the date you want your benefits to start.
- If you are already age 62, you may be able to start your benefits in the month you apply.
- If you are not getting Social Security and you are not ready to retire, you should still sign up for Medicare four months before your 65th birthday.
- Close to age 65, you can find out how to apply for just Medicare. You may need to sign up for Medicare close to your 65th birthday, even if you are still working.
- Some health insurance plans change automatically at age 65.
- If you are getting Social Security benefits when you turn 65, your Medicare Hospital Benefits will start automatically.
What happens next?
Read "Retire Online It's So Easy!" to find out what happens after you apply.
Learn More About Retirement Benefits:
The online forms are available to you seven days a week during the following hours (Eastern time):
Monday-Friday: 5 a.m. until 1 a.m.
Saturday: 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Holidays: 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Contacting Social Security
For more information and to find copies of our publications, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call toll-free, 1-800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778). We treat all calls confidentially. We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We can provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day.