Transitional income assistance programs are designed to provide temporary assistance to unemployed or otherwise disadvantaged individuals and families. Typically, these programs have restrictions on the receipt of such benefits, in terms of eligibility and the amount of time an individual can receive payments.
TANF (WorkFirst New Jersey). New Jersey's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Work First New Jersey (WFNJ), is administered by the State Department of Human Services. This program began in October 1996. Through WFNJ, the state provides case assistance benefits, supportive services, and emergency assistance to families, including food, shelter, and clothing assistance. Eligible one or two-parent families will have at least one child under age 18 who is a full-time student in secondary school or a vocational school equivalent. Eligible parents and caretakers must agree to an enforceable Individual Development Plan including work program participation goals.
Under WorkFirst New Jersey, the state also provides supportive services to participants engaging in allowable work activities.77 Supportive services include transportation expenses, "employment-directed activities or allowances," automobile-related expenses, and child care necessary for the family member to accept employment and remain employed. Moreover, WorkFirst New Jersey covers transitional assistance; the state provides one year of post-TANF child care benefits to families that have become ineligible for TANF due to increased earnings. The state also has a 24-month transitional Medicaid benefit. Thus, families no longer eligible for TANF due to increased child support or spousal support will have a four-month post-TANF period of Medicaid coverage.78
In order to be eligible for TANF cash assistance in New Jersey, individuals must have countable assets below $2,000. A recipient's benefit equals the difference between countable income (income after specified deductions) and the maximum benefit. If countable income exceeds the maximum benefit, the family is not eligible for assistance. As under AFDC, family members receiving SSI benefits are excluded from the assistance unit. However, the SSI recipient's income and resources are not considered when determining eligibility or benefits for the rest of the family. New Jersey enforces a 60-month lifetime limit on assistance and a limit of no more than 24 months before a recipient must engage in an allowable work activity.79 The maximum benefit for a family of three is $488.80 In 1999, WorkFirst New Jersey expenditures totaled $11,101,472.81
WorkFirst and Welfare-to-Work. The departments of Human Services and Labor have established a unique partnership designed to use the resources of both departments, along with their contracted vendors and agencies, to provide services to welfare recipients under the WorkFirst New Jersey program. WorkFirst New Jersey participants receive mainstream labor exchange services with a focus on job search assistance. The New Jersey Department of Labor Welfare-to-Work initiative includes basic skills evaluation, referral services to employers and employability development services such as job training.
WorkFirst General Assistance. New Jersey's WorkFirst New Jersey General Assistance (WFNJ/GA) program provides temporary cash assistance and supports to single adults and couples without dependent children under rules similar to WFNJ/TANF. As of March 2001, approximately two-thirds of the 566 municipal welfare departments transferred administrative authority of GA to county welfare agencies. The remaining one-third of the municipal welfare departments administers their own GA programs.82
Unemployment Insurance. Unemployment Compensation is an insurance benefit paid to workers who meet all the requirements of the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law. This includes only individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. The money to pay these benefits comes from payroll tax paid by employers and workers. Effective January 1, 2000, the taxable wage base is $21,200, subject to a worker tax rate of 0.425 percent. The maximum worker contribution is $90.10. To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, one of the following conditions must apply: an individual must have worked at least 20 base weeks or alternative base weeks during the base period; or an individual must have been paid a certain minimum amount of money in covered employment. The minimum amount changes every year. In 2000, the amount was $9,100.
Some claimants who file for unemployment benefits are directed to register for work with the Employment Service. Recent Federal legislation requires all states to implement a program providing reemployment assistance to those claimants who are permanently laid off and will most likely benefit from them. Once selected to participate in this mandatory program, an individual must report to an orientation session and participate, or jeopardize his or her eligibility for unemployment benefits.
If an individual is laid off or terminated from a job while collecting Temporary Disability Benefits or Workers' Compensation, he or she may file for unemployment benefits using wages earned in an alternate base year set by the disability date.