Senators Highlight Importance of Maintaining Social Service Programs During Difficult Budget Season

oc social svs tlsSenate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg met today with several advocacy groups who serve the needs of women, children and the state’s most vulnerable populations to listen to their challenges and highlight the critical role that they play in addressing priorities that shouldn’t be sacrificed or compromised during a challenging budget process.

The senators emphasized the need to protect and empower organizations that serve struggling New Jerseyans who continue to face difficult times.

As the state’s economy experiences a failure to launch in comparison to the rest of the country, both senators underscored the importance of prioritizing a range of issues that are important to those who are struggling the most, including affordable housing, food security, SNAP benefits, women’s healthcare, affordable childcare and economic opportunity.

“These are real issues that have a direct impact on the lives of everyday people,” said Senator Sweeney. “We all know this is going to be a tough budget season, but Senator Weinberg and I are committed to protecting important social service organizations that serve women and children and those in need. We cannot allow these groups – and more importantly the people they serve – to fall by the wayside.”

“While it is clear this year’s budget process will be challenging, we are committed to supporting and protecting the residents who need help the most,” said Senator Weinberg. “Organizations serving our most vulnerable populations provide a critical safety net for women, children and families across the state. We are dedicated to supporting these groups in the upcoming budget and to ensuring they are able to meet the needs of the community.”

The senators met with representatives from groups that included Planned Parenthood, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), Project S.A.R.A.H. of Jewish Family Services, the Adler Aphasia Center, Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative and Bergen Family Center.

“It is important to focus on the needs of New Jersey’s most vulnerable children. CASA programs welcome the opportunity to share with all of our leaders the ways in which we partner with the state to help ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of children removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect,” said Liza M. Kirschenbaum, Esq., Associate Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of New Jersey, Inc.

“It is imperative that low-income, hardworking Bergen County residents have a voice so that their most basic needs – like healthcare – are met. Only then can they stay healthy and support their families. I want to thank the Senate leaders for taking the time to hear from us about the needs that exist within the community,” said Amanda Missey, Executive Director of Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative.

“We appreciate the opportunity to discuss directly with the Senate President and Majority Leader the challenges facing Bergen County families. We see a tremendous need for more services for senior citizens and for parents with young children,” said Mitch Schonfeld, CEO of the Bergen Family Center.

“Family planning agencies are often the gateway to primary health care services for low-income and working families, who may not otherwise seek traditional preventive health care. Every day, our providers see a real need for high quality preventive health care including breast and cervical cancer screenings, STD tests, contraception and counseling,” said Kate Clark, Government Relations Director for New Jersey Family Planning League, which works with health care clinics, local health departments, and Planned Parenthood affiliates.

“We welcome the opportunity to speak on behalf of the 10,000 people with aphasia and their families in New Jersey. Aphasia, a communication disorder usually as a result of a stroke or TBI, due to the nature of the disorder, is a silent disability. With the post-therapeutic support and stimulation that centers like Adler can offer those with aphasia, we can help people improve their quality of life and their communication skills,” said Karen Tucker, Adler Aphasia Center’s Executive Director.

“As a state that is committed to supporting family life, New Jersey has programs and dedicated professionals with the skills to help multiply traumatized families improve their lives and shift the trajectories of the lives of their children,” said Esther East, Director of Jewish Family Service of Clifton, home for Project S.A.R.A.H., a statewide domestic violence and sexual abuse program targeting members of the orthodox Jewish community, and the PALS program for Passaic County, which offers treatment for children exposed to domestic violence, and outpatient mental health services including case management for high risk families. “We have seen the positive changes in the families we have worked with. However, these families need ongoing, skilled supportive services – transportation that works, assistance obtaining public benefits, housing that is safe and affordable, access to psychiatric care. These things are in limited supply. We are grateful for the interest and compassion shown by Senators Sweeney and Weinberg to those of us doing the work on a daily basis and the residents we serve.”

[TLS]

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