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June 30, 2015
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Working families to receive higher tax credits

New Jersey’s low-income working families will get some relief under the New Jersey state budget, which Governor Christie signed into law on Friday. The Legislature added and the governor approved an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit. Refunds will now equal 30 percent – instead of 20 percent -- of the federal credit. Christie had cut the refund amount in the 2011 budget from 25 to 20 percent. It has now been restored at the higher level in this FY 2016 budget, which begins July 1.

On average, recipients will receive an additional $250 a year, with the lowest earners receiving as much as an additional $600 per year.

In other budget developments that are positive for children and families:

  • The Court-Appointed Special Advocates, a statewide volunteer program that provides oversight of cases of children in foster care, received an additional $850,000, up from $1.15 million in the governor’s proposed budget, for a total of $2 million.
  • The Department of Children and Families will receive an additional $2.5 million to fund family support services for youth with developmental disabilities.

The governor vetoed the following line items that the Legislature had added to the proposed budget:

Heat & Eat Vetoed
A provision that would have provided a minimum of $21 in energy assistance to low-income residents through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was cut. This change would have increased the monthly food stamp benefits to certain households. Under federal rules adopted last year, LIHEAP recipients must receive at least $20 per year to qualify for an increase in the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit. Previously, amounts as small as 10 cents per year triggered the increase in a household’s food stamp benefit.

Education Funds
A $2 million “Opportunity Scholarship Demonstration Program” through the Department of Education was eliminated and replaced with a $2 million “Education Reform Implementation Grant Program.” This establishes a competitive grant program for school districts to fund education reform initiatives. No more than $1 million can be used for teacher development and no more than $1 million can be used for the implementation of tests under the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Grants cannot exceed $250,000 to any single district.

In addition, the Achievement Gap Reduction Program will be funded with $1 million and will be awarded to a racially-diverse school district where significant achievement gaps exist among different racial groups and students of different socio-economic status. A school district receiving a grant shall use the funds to implement programs to close achievement gaps.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

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