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Pictured are Brian Helmuth, Director, Lawrence Community Center and Deborah Henderson, Case Manager
Lawrence Community Center
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 talk about the Lawrence Community Center managed by our partner Homefront.
The Lawrence Community Center, is both a community center and a site for some HomeFront support programs. Currently the Center provides a safe, welcoming place where Lawrence Township residents and guests can gather and participate in cultural, educational and recreational programs. The Center also serves as the point of delivery for social services, including a food pantry, referrals for clothing, determination of eligibility for food bags and clothing/household goods, assistance with obtaining family health insurance, back rent and utilities –– all of which benefit Lawrence Township and other low income Mercer County residents.
Since its inception 20 years ago, HomeFront has worked to break the cycle of poverty and end homelessness in Central New Jersey, serving thousands of Mercer County families. In the past year alone, almost 14,000 heads of households walked through our front door looking for help. Started by volunteers providing meals for families living in welfare motels, HomeFront has since developed a holistic array of services for clients who are either homeless or at high risk of becoming so.
“ We know that a warm night is not a given for the families we serve, NJ SHARES enables us to help clients who do not qualify for other assistance”, said Connie Mercer, President/Chief Executive Officer
Jim Jacob, NJS's President and CEO
The New Jersey state climatologist predicted recently that February would become one of the top five coldest months in more than 120 years. Given the severity of this winter, with more and more of us staying inside due to the cold, it is critical to remember some important tips for staying safe indoors:
- Be sure your heating systems and smoke alarms are working properly
- Heating systems should be inspected annually and smoke alarms monthly
- Do not put anything that can burn near heating equipment including the fireplace, furnace or portable space heater
- Do not let children go near open fires and space heaters
- Turn portable heaters off when you are not in the room
This bitter cold and continuous snow and ice storms have made this an extremely stressful and difficult winter. Even worse, soon many New Jersey residents will be facing higher than normal utility bills as a result of this frigid weather.
As January and February bills come due in March, many people will see a dramatic increase in their heating costs. These higher bills have the potential to create an emergency situation for our neighbors in need as they struggle to meet their financial obligations
In addition, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Winter Termination Program (WTP), an important safeguard protecting many New Jersey residents from having their utility service interrupted or turned-off during the coldest winter months, ends on March 15.
For those who are facing termination, NJ SHARES is here to help. For the past 16 years, we have been the safety net organization for those who are unable to pay their utility bills due to circumstances beyond their control – such as unemployment, illness, medical expenses or other financial hardship. In addition to providing grants, we are able to connect low and moderate-income households with important resources offering education, information, referral and advocacy support.
The NJ SHARES Board of Directors has 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 PAGE program. This new policy will enable our agency partners to expedite applications to qualifying clients whose service is terminated at the time of application. The policy is in effect now through the 2015 operating year. All questions about the new policy can be directed to email@example.com.
As March approaches, I look forward to participating in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Action Day in Washington, D.C. on March 25. Sponsored by the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition, this annual event brings together energy assistance organizations from across the nation and key elected officials and their staff members who support energy assistance programs. It is critical that our elected officials continue to provide support for energy assistance programs that offer much-needed financial relief and utility services to those facing a financial crisis. We are fortunate that in New Jersey our legislators understand and support LIHEAP.
We are grateful for the warm hearts of our legislators, community partners and agencies, along with our corporate, foundation and individual supporters. It is because of their generous support that we are able 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 Scott T. Rumana
A Message from Assemblyman Scott T. Rumana (R) of the 40th Legislative District
A record-setting cold winter has done more than stretch the patience of us all. For some, it has stretched their budgets beyond their breaking points.
Thanks to NJ SHARES, residents facing temporary financial hardships do not have to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table. Through their network of almost 250 human-service agencies with nearly 300 applications sites statewide, they provide assistance to individuals who need help paying their utility bills and are not eligible for other assistance.
NJ SHARES, however, does more than just helping to keep the lights and heat on. They also serve as a bridge to partner organizations who provide case-management services assisting households with counseling, nutrition, housing, and employment issues too. They have also partnered with Verizon, NJ American Water, and United Water to provide telephone and water utility assistance.
As a legislator, I want to commend NJ SHARES, its team of outstanding professionals dedicated to helping their neighbors, and the individuals and corporations who donate to make sure that NJ Shares can continue to serve as a safety net for those in need. You help us help others and for that I am grateful.
I pledge to continue to fight to make New Jersey a more affordable place to live and also to make sure I do all I can to keep businesses (and jobs!) here.
In the meantime, thank you, NJ SHARES, for doing so much good.
Assemblyman Scott T. Rumana
Don’t Forget: NJ SHARES’ Has New Policy to Expedite Relief to Households Without Utilities
In light of the Winter Termination Program (WTP) ending on March 15, please remember that 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.
WTP Protection Period Ends March 15th
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
Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefits
A NEW WAY TO GET YOUR SSA-1099 ONLINE
With tax season upon us, many of you have asked about Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefits. Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits. About one-third of people who get Social Security have to pay income taxes on their benefits.
Beginning this tax season, any 'my Social Security' account holder who misplaces their original SSA-1099 will be able to request an instant replacement from our menu of online services. Please see the attached document for additional information regarding this exciting new service.
You probably plan to receive Social Security benefits someday. Maybe you already do. Either way, you’ll want to create a my Social Security account to:
- Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
- Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
- Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and
- Manage your benefits:
- Change your address; and
- Start or change your direct deposit.
- View and print SSA-1099 Online
Setting up an account is quick, secure, and easy. Join the millions and create an account now!
Note: No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. If you:
- file a federal tax return as an "individual" and your combined income* is
- between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
- more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
- file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a combined income* that is
- between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits
- more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
- are married and file a separate tax return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.
Withholding Income Tax From Your Social Security Benefits
You can ask us to withhold federal taxes from your Social Security when you apply for benefits.
If you are already receiving benefits or if you want to change or stop your withholding, you'll need a form W-4V from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
You can download the form, or call the IRS toll-free number 1-800-829-3676 and ask for Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the IRS TTY number, 1-800-829-4059.)
When you complete the form, you will need to select the percentage of your monthly benefit amount you want withheld. You can have 7%, 10%, 15% or 25% of your monthly benefit withheld for taxes.
Note: Only these percentages can be withheld. Flat dollar amounts are not accepted.
Sign the form and return it to your local Social Security office by mail or in person.
If you need more information
If you need more information about tax withholding, read IRS Publication 554, Tax Guide for Seniors, and Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.
If you have questions about your tax liability or want to request a Form W-4V, you can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 (TTY 1-800-829-4059).
Please share this information with your clients, colleagues, students and the general public. If you are able, please post this information on your website or other social media sites.