Do not pervert/deny justice to your people. Exodus 23:1-9
Through human decisions and actions, God is at work in economic life. Economic life is intended to be a means through which God’s purposes for humankind and creation are to be served. When this does not occur, as a church, we cannot remain silent because of who and whose we are.
Outrage over the plight of people living in poverty is a theme throughout the Bible. The poor are those who live precariously between subsistence and utter deprivation. It is not poor people themselves who are the problem, but their lack of access to the basic necessities of life. Without such, they cannot maintain their human dignity.
Since the recession started in 2008, the number of unemployed New Jerseyans has doubled to about 400,000. While the unemployment rate has gone down slightly, it is still one of the highest rates in the nation and the slight decrease is due in large part to the growth of low-wage jobs. New Jersey has the highest percent of long term unemployed among all states. Without work supports, too many New Jerseyans cannot maintain their independence in these low-wage jobs – much less improve their economic future. The state has actually cut some of these work supports since the recession started, although the economy has been stimulated by increasing disposable income of low-wage workers.
LEAMNJ supports several measures advocating for low wage workers and for the unemployed including:
Increase grants from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Emergency Assistance (EA).
Expand Preschool for all children in NJ.
Expansion of WorkFirst NJ so that low wage workers have support to continue working and job training to advance their employment skills,
Create greater access to Health Coverage that is affordable
Health Care for all kids in New Jersey
Expand eligibility for EITC
Learn more about the history of the Mt Laurel Decision, click here.
New Jersey’s housing costs ranks fifth highest in the country. With nearly a quarter of the state’s renters paying over 50% of their income to housing, it should come as no surprise that many families often have to make difficult choices between rent, food, medicine, and other essentials. There is an extraordinarily low housing vacancy rate in NJ, which has been exacerbated by the destruction of rental units impacted by Hurricane Sandy. A lack of available homes that families can afford is driving cost through the roof. A two-part strategy of building and renovating homes that are affordable; and making homes affordable through expanding existing rental assistance program will help to address this crisis.
Housing Starts: New Jersey cities and towns have a Constitutional obligation to zone for affordable homes to all income levels, so no town can remain an exclusive enclave. Urban areas need more homes their residents can afford in order to revitalize the cities. Over the past four years, the state has not put new money into the budget to support housing starts, but in fact has tried to take money from municipal housing trust funds. We need policies to support building homes that the people of New Jersey can afford.
Foreclosures: New Jersey has the second highest rate of foreclosed houses in the nation. A foreclosed home degrades neighborhoods by making the homes surrounding it worth less and, if it stays abandoned, can be a place that attracts crime. We need to both stop the tide of foreclosures and turn unoccupied homes into homes that can be a housing resource for the state.
Homelessness: In many cases, homelessness can be prevented with targeted assistance to families on the brink. When people do become homeless, shelters provide an important emergency response, but they are not designed for long-term stays. Even when the cycle of homelessness has taken root, experience shows it can be ended once people live in their own apartments with appropriate support services. We need a responsible plan that will move people out of shelters and transitional housing, and into permanent homes.