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NJ SHARES Strives for Customer Service Excellence
What is it that makes a difference to a client in crisis when they call our client services call centers for help? Some might say it is because we spend time on each call to explain information. Others might agree but feel the difference is in the tone of our voice when we speak to our clients. NJ SHARES knows it is all of these things and much more.
We are raising the bar on the level of customer service that we provide. We want each caller to trust us to connect them to resources necessary to address their emergencies. Our specially trained call center representatives will receive ongoing reinforcement of these standards through an internal training and motivational program that will continue throughout 2012. This training will aid us in providing customer service that emphasizes the details when we speak with our callers. We want our partner agencies and clients to expect to receive excellence when they call for help.
Winter Termination Program Ended March 15, 2012
Individuals and families who are unable to make payments to their utilities could experience an interruption of service as the consumer protection period ends. The New Jersey Winter Termination Program – which aims to protect low to moderate income households from interruption of utility service due to the inability to afford energy during the coldest time of year (from mid-November through mid-March) – ended on March 15. The energy assistance programs in the state will see a spike in inquiries and applications during this time. The ability to aid these households is dependent on the amount of resources available.
Special Tax Credit Available for New Jersey’s Working Families
New Jersey’s workforce members who are in financial difficulty may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This special credit reduces the amount of taxes owed by eligible workers and sometimes provides a tax refund as well. New Jersey individuals and families may be eligible to have their taxes prepared free of charge. To find out where you can get free help filing your taxes, call the NJ Community Resource Hotline at 211 or 1-877-652-1148. For information on the Federal EITC, call 1-800-829-1040 or visit http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96466,00.html. For information about the New Jersey EITC, call 1-866-698-9065 or visit http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/eitcinfo.shtml.
New Jersey Center for Non-Profits Releases Survey Findings
New Jersey non-profits continued to confront rising demand for services and tight funding streams in 2011, and most remained cautious in their outlook for 2012, according to a new report released by the Center for Non-Profits. The report calls for efforts to strengthen non-profits and for continued government/non-profit/for-profit collaboration to ensure that community and societal needs can be met.
The survey provides evidence of the lingering effects of the economy on the state’s charitable community. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of responding organizations reported that demand for services had increased during the past year, and even more (78%) expected demand to continue rising in 2012. “Non-profits employ 7% of the state’s work force, and governments and individuals are turning to them more than ever to provide essential programs and services,” commented Linda M. Czipo, executive director of the Center. “When their ability to provide these programs and services is threatened as it has been by the recession, this should concern everyone.” The full report, New Jersey Non-Profits 2012: Trends and Outlook, is available on the Center for Non-Profits web site at www.njnonprofits.org/2012AnnualSurveyRpt.pdf.
This month we look forward to the promise of Spring as we observe budding plants and green grass across the state. Even though we had a mild winter which lessens the risk for life threatening emergencies for those without heat, many of our neighbors are seeking help with their heating bills which exceeded their ability to pay.
We know senior citizens are struggling. One of the glaring facts from the New Jersey Elder Economic Index Report is that seniors have a growing gap between their income and meeting their basic needs. We are also aware that agencies and programs aimed to assist our struggling neighbors are burdened with fewer resources to fill the widening gaps. The New Jersey Center for Non-Profits published a report documenting the plight of vulnerable households and the shrinking resources to meet the needs in our state.
Energy emergencies for our neighbors continue to escalate despite the recent uptick of the economy. The critical energy assistance programs in the state will see a spike in inquiries and applications during this time. NJ SHARES administers the call center for the Department of Community Affairs to answer inquiries on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Universal Service Program (USF) NJ SHARES has responded to more than 230,000 inquiries on LIHEAP and USF benefits in the last year.
LIHEAP is a critical energy assistance program that is open seasonally from November 1, through April 30. The Universal Service Program is available year-round.
Budget cuts have forced the LIHEAP program to continue to operate at reduced eligibility requirements and benefit levels for 2012 and the President’s 2013 proposed budget calls for less than what was authorized by Congress for this year.
Individuals and families who are unable to make good-faith payments to their utilities could experience an interruption of service and will be in danger of the tragedies associated with not having heat, cooling, or life sustaining medical equipment. NJ SHARES continues to work with our counterparts across to advocate for LIHEAP to be fully funded at the Federal level.
NJ SHARES would like to express our ongoing appreciation to our partners and friends who continue to work to find solutions for New Jersey’s working poor, moderate and fixed income population. Together we are working to address the energy and utility needs of our neighbors.
NJ SHARES Presents at PSE&G Energy Workshops
NJ SHARES presented information on resources available for energy, telephone and water assistance programs at PSE&G’s Energy Assistance conferences. The conferences were held in Camden, Edison, Lawrenceville, Jersey City, Newark, North Bergen and Paterson.
New Jersey Foundation for Aging to Host Annual Conference
Registration is now open for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging Conference. The event will be held on JUNE 14, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza in Jamesburg and is geared toward providers in the aging network. The conference is an educational opportunity to advance new approaches and professional ethics in order to enhance quality services for diverse senior and caregiver groups.
Keynote speakers, Linda Couch, Senior Vice President for Policy and Research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and Suzanne Braun Levine, nationally recognized author and authority on women, family issues and media will offer thoughtful presentations. For more information on registration, visit: www.njfoundationforaging.org.
Poverty Summit Registration Coming Soon
The Anti-Poverty Network will convene a Poverty Summit calling to action an investment in the people of New Jersey. The Summit scheduled for Monday, May 21st from 9:00am-3:00pm at the Trenton War Memorial, will provide reports on the current realities of poverty and income insecurity with a special focus on employment, housing and hunger issues in our state. Join community organizations, advocates, persons living in poverty, legislators, state officials and others in this dynamic dialogue. http://www.antipovertynetwork.org/
ACE’s 85 Ways to Save:
Just in time for spring cleaning, Atlantic City Electric has some in-home tips for getting the most out of your heating system by maintaining proper air circulation. Atlantic City Electric has published a brochure, “85 Ways to Save Money and Energy.” The brochure highlights how to save energy. To view the brochure, visit: http://www.atlanticcityelectric.com/_res/documents/Rebranded%20brochures/conserving_energy/85_Ways_ACE.pdf