Category Archives: senoir citizens

NJPP Monday Minute 5/3/10: Taxing seniors with higher fees is not shared sacrifice

Thirty-six percent of the 1.5 million seniors living in New Jersey have incomes under $25,000. For them, budget cuts that raise living expenses will have the disastrous effect of pushing more seniors into poverty. Consider the following policy proposals made in Gov. Christie’s proposed FY 2011 budget.

Homestead Rebates are eliminated – for both homeowners and tenants – for calendar year 2010.

The Homestead Rebate program is the state’s most significant homeowner and tenant property tax relief program – paying over $1 billion to homeowners and $74 million to tenants in 2009. In that year, more than 500,000 senior homeowners received average rebate checks of $1,300; while more than 100,000 senior tenants were eligible for maximum rebates of $800. This year homeowners and tenants will receive nothing – no matter what their income or their property tax.

The Christie administration proposes to change this program to a credit program in 2011 – the first installment of which would be made in May 2011 more than a year from now. Only homeowners would be eligible for the credit; tenants would be excluded entirely from receiving a credit. The FY 2011 budget recommends $268 million for the first quarterly credit in May 2011 which presumably would show up as a deduction on the property tax bill – not as a check in the mail.

Since 1963 when the state enacted its income tax, payments have been made directly to homeowners and tenants. Last year, the state sent checks to senior citizen homeowners with incomes below $150,000 and tenants with income below $100,000. Eligibility has varied through the years but this is the first year in memory where no payments will be made.

Senior Property Tax Freeze Program closed to new participants

The Senior Property Tax Freeze Program reimburses eligible senior citizens and disabled people for the amount their property taxes increase since the first year they become eligible for the program. The Christie administration would save about $26 million by closing this program to new eligible seniors in FY 2011 regardless of their income. Those already in the program would continue to benefit as long as their income remains below $70,000.

In 2009, this program paid out over $191 million to 136,000 repeat participants and 47,000 new participants. People already in the program received average checks just over $1,300; new participants received approximately $265. The 47,000 newly eligible seniors in 2009 cost the state $12.5 million.

In a year when property taxes are expected to increase because of severe cuts to school and municipal aid, the administration expects to pay just over $1,000 ($300 less than in FY 2010) to the 159,000 participating seniors in FY 2011.

Seniors likely will pay more for their prescription drugs

In order to save just over $140 million in prescription drug expenses for low income senior citizens, the Christie administration proposes to increase co-pays for brand name drugs to $15 from $7; decrease co-pays for generic drugs to $5 from $6; and institute a $310 annual deductible for the first time in history for those eligible for the Pharmaceutical Assistance for Aged and Disabled and Senior Gold programs.

Over 160,000 poor elderly residents participate in the PAAD and Senior Gold programs, according to the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. Couples over age 65 are eligible for PAAD if their incomes are under $29,956 and for Senior Gold if their incomes are under $39,956. Single individuals are eligible for PAAD if their incomes are under $24,432 and for Senior Gold if their incomes are under $34,432. For all of these people, the cost of getting the medicine they need to survive will likely increase based on the provisions included in the FY 2011 budget.

While encouraging use of generic over name brand medications is sensible in terms of cost, not every drug is available in generic form. About 36 percent of PAAD recipients use brand name prescriptions because no generic equivalent exists; another four percent use the brand name because their doctors believe the brand name is medically necessary. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services estimates that on average brand name medicines cost $119 compared to $18.71 for generic. AARP notes that the average person on PAAD takes 4 to 5 drugs each month. The combination of the new $310 annual deductible and drug price changes could mean that some low-income seniors could face significant increases in their medical costs.

Cutting prescription drug assistance and property tax relief for New Jersey’s seniors, while giving the wealthy a tax break, does not represent compassion and shared sacrifice. Gov. Christie’s plan will see more seniors rationing drugs, getting sicker and ending up in emergency rooms and nursing homes that will cost taxpayers even more. New Jersey can do better than target the elderly who can barely afford to make ends meet.

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Filed under AARP, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ Foundation For Aging, prescription drugs, property tax relief, senoir citizens

NJPP Monday Minute 4/12/10: Budget Cuts Hurt School Kids

The Monday Minutes for the next weeks will focus on spending issues in the FY 2011 budget. They will address proposals that affect different populations in New Jersey: school children, college students, working families, seniors, among others. It is not possible to analyze everything so the proposals selected will address small but important programs that have a particularly large impact on certain populations.

While New Jersey continues to struggle with the effects of the recession, Governor Christie’s budget eliminates $15.9 million in state funding for three important programs that help working families, their children and the schools they attend. If the Legislature includes these cuts in its final budget, many children will lose important, life sustaining benefits that help them from the time they eat breakfast in the morning until they go home at night.

The Governor’s proposed budget:

Eliminates all State funding for the school breakfast program: $3.0 million
Cuts State funding for the school lunch program: $2.4 million
Eliminates State funding for the New Jersey After 3 program: $10.5 million
School Breakfast and Lunch Programs

The Christie administration proposes to cut $5.4 million from school breakfast and lunch programs in the coming year. Luckily the federal government provides important (but not sufficient) funds so these vital programs will continue but at a reduced level.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reimburses schools between 24 cents and $2.70 for the cost of meals they provide to children depending on the meal and the family’s income. A child in a family of four earning less than $27,560 is entitled to a free breakfast and lunch at school. The school is reimbursed between $2.50 and $2.70 by the federal government for that lunch. As family income rises, the school receives a smaller reimbursement. But even for children who pay the full price, the school receives between 24 cents and 33 cents per meal from USDA.

Cutting the state subsidy for meals provided by school districts will likely raise the meal prices charged to kids, reduce the quality of meals served or create a deficit in the food service program. If food services are provided by a private company and the costs of meals are fixed by contract, fewer children will probably be fed.

Access has been a problem in the school breakfast program. Although state law mandates that school districts with a 20 percent participation in the free and reduced price school lunch program must also participate in the school breakfast program, New Jersey ranked among the bottom ten states for school breakfast program participation in the 2008-2009 school year, according to the Food Research and Action Center. Only 38 out of every 100 students in New Jersey’s school lunch program also participated in the school breakfast program.

Expanding the school breakfast program in the past has been a priority. The Association for Children of New Jersey expects these budget cuts will curtail efforts to expand the program. Obstacles to feeding more children breakfast include the cost to the school of having adequate adult supervision for the students before they begin class and preparing the meals. A $3 million cut to the school breakfast program reduces state reimbursement to schools by 10 cents per breakfast served. Losing this revenue will particularly hurt school districts with successful school breakfast programs, such as schools in Newark which offer universal school breakfast and serve as a national model.


Most working parents don’t finish work before 3 pm. Studies show that high quality after-school programs expand student learning time and keep kids safe.

Founded in 2004, New Jersey After 3 is a public/private partnership that works with local nonprofit agencies who collectively operate 115 programs-in local Ys, Boys and Girls Clubs, Jewish Family Services, and other organizations-that provide safe high quality affordable after school programs in 29 towns to approximately 12,000 students.

The Christie administration proposes eliminating the entire $10.5 million appropriation for the program in FY 2011. Since its inception, this program has raised approximately $45 million in non-state financial support. Among its lead investors are PSE&G, Bank of America, Americorps, Capital One Bank, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Novartis, Victoria Foundation, Verizon, JPMorganChase, PNC Bank, Sanofi Aventis, State Farm Insurance, the US Golf Association, the US Tennis Association and the Trenton Public Schools. With no state funding, it will fall on these lead investors to make up the state’s investment in these programs. Failing that, programs will close and/or after school child care costs will be unsustainable for many working parents.

Governor Christie’s mid-year budget cuts in February eliminated half of New Jersey After 3’s funding, leaving working parents with the dilemma of putting their children in more expensive programs or risk losing their jobs when they leave work early to pick up their kids from school. One mother from Vernon, New Jersey told the Star-Ledger that the New Jersey After 3 program at her local school gave her daughter high-quality care right on school grounds for $900 less per month then she was paying a private center. “I know they’re safe, they’re fed, they’re cared for.” This was important given that she and her husband each work an hour away from Vernon.

When Governor Christie proposed his budget he spoke of shared sacrifice, but corporations and the wealthiest New Jerseyans are not being asked to pay more. Rather, New Jersey’s children, their parents and the teachers and support staff who work with them are asked to sacrifice tremendously. Cuts to programs that hurt kids and put their parents’ and teachers’ jobs at risk in a shaky economy – that’s too much sacrifice.


Filed under budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, public education, school kids, school lunch programs, senoir citizens

AARP New Jersey Applauds State for Helping Vulnerable Elderly with Their Energy

New, Innovative Auto-Enrollment Process Brings Energy Assistance to Tens of Thousands of Additional Low-Income NJ Seniors

Trenton, NJ: AARP New Jersey today applauded Governor Jon S. Corzine and his administration for their leadership in significantly expanding the distribution of energy assistance benefits to low-income elderly New Jersey households. By our State’s actions in raising the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) maximum income levels to match that of the State’s PAAD/Lifeline program, approximately 50,000 additional low-income NJ families are receiving assistance.

“Governor Corzine demonstrated his commitment to focus on the energy assistance need of New Jersey’s most vulnerable older citizens,” said AARP New Jersey Senior State Director Jim Dieterle. “Energy costs continue to pose serious affordability challenges, particularly in this difficult economic climate; AARP commends our State’s efforts to combat this growing problem.”

AARP worked closely with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to streamline the enrollment process. Residents who were enrolled in PAAD, the state’s prescription drug program, and the Lifeline Utility Assistance Program were automatically enrolled in LIHEAP. Many have also been automatically enrolled in the Universal Service Fund (USF).

“AARP worked with our state partners to make this a reality,” said Dieterle. “In the past, the vast majority of New Jerseyans 50 and older who could have received heating assistance had not even applied partly because of an arduous application process. The new system of auto-enrollment helped thousands of households across the state this past heating season. AARP thanks the Governor, DHSS, DCA, and the BPU for their collaborative efforts that have resulted in one of the best, if not the best, low-income energy assistance programs in the nation.”

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Filed under AARP, Corzine'09, Gov. Jon Corzine, low-income energy assistance program, New Jersey, senoir citizens