Chris Christie is About to Make Thousands of Chronically-Disabled People Homeless|
“They are not going to be able to fend for themselves.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is about to put more than 3,000 disabled, terminally-ill and unemployed state residents out on the streets, and just in time for the holidays.
This is especially callous, considering Christie has shilled out more than $6 billion dollars in corporate tax breaks since taking office in 2010 – a figure that surpasses all of his predecessors. Christie maintains the tax breaks are necessary to create and keep jobs, yet the taxpayer cost per job went from $18,000 per job in 2009 to a whopping $80,000 as of 2014.
One resident to be affected by this policy is disabled 57-year-old Jeanne Chiaravallo, who expects to be homeless in less than a month. Chiaravallo is partially blind, and an amputee, living in Hunterdon County. She requires an oxygen tank to breathe properly, and a home health aide to accomplish everyday tasks like showering and taking medication.
Obviously, citizens like Chiaravallo require permanent assistance, as the chances of someone in her condition to maintain stable employment is virtually impossible.
“I don’t know where I am going to go and what I am going to do,” Chiaravallo told nj.com.
She’s not alone, either. 50 more people in her county are in the same situation, facing homelessness as winter approaches. Altogether, there are 3,019 people in her position across the state. A vast majority of those 3,000+ residents are disabled or on their deathbeds and entirely unable to work.
And for the unemployed, it doesn’t help that Chris Christie’s New Jersey has had one of the most dismal economies. As of last August, New Jersey’s unemployment rate ranked number 36 in the nation.
The two emergency assistance programs so many have been relying on initially expired in 2012. When the programs expired, they were given a three-year extension while residents awaited a judge’s ruling as to whether some of them would be eligible for permanent support. However, the Christie administration informed welfare directors across the state last July that the extension had expired, and has yet to float a replacement. This means in the next three to four weeks, residents such as Chiaravallo are facing homelessness. For the terminally ill, that’s virtually a death sentence.
“I’m going to be evicted by then. I can’t stay with my family because I can’t get around their house,” Chiaravello said.
New Jersey welfare officials across the state are shocked and dumbfounded by the lack of consideration for these residents.
“[The move is] the largest sudden change in policy toward people who are homeless or are at risk of being homeless since the late 80s or early 90s,” said Legal Services of New Jersey executive director Melville Miller. “These are vulnerable people who have a tiny stream of income each month. They are not going to be able to fend for themselves.”
Since the programs assisting the chronically-disabled expired this July, the supplemental income has likewise been at risk. Eligible participants were collecting roughly $746.25 per month in social security. Childless adults were collecting $140 per month, $210 if disabled. Welfare recipients garnered support depending on the size of the household. For example, a parent raising two children received $424 per month, as opposed to $322 for a single child.
“As these cases are coming in and they are trying to find out something, the waiting lists are long,” Miller said. “We have an affordable housing shortage of great dimensions.”
And while New Jersey has the 14th-highest unemployment rate, the Garden State has the fifth-most costly rent prices in the nation. A two-bedroom apartment can go for as much as $1,300 a month, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Chiaravallo’s Hunterdon County has one of the state’s highest costs of living, according to Roni Todd-Marino of nonprofit advocacy organization Fisherman’s Mark.
“The current message from the county is they need to be looking outside the county. It’s a heartbreaking situation. There aren’t a lot of options,” Todd-Marino told nj.com.
The Comprehensive Emergency Assistance System — a committee of social service workers — sent a letter to government officials warning them of the dire situation for affected residents.
“This has come as quite a shock to most recipients. While it is true that they knew in an abstract way, that the rental assistance was temporary, most believed that the state would not simply terminate their assistance without an alternative housing program in place,” The letter stated.
Meanwhile, Gov. Christie still can’t prove that the $6 billion in corporate tax breaks has done the state any good. He even vetoed a measure last May that would have judged the effectiveness of those tax breaks. By contrast, helping these 3,000+ residents stay in their home only costs the state $15.56 million.
But Christie didn’t stop at cutting programs for the disabled — according to Politifact, he cut $1 billion from the state’s public education fund while dishing out $2.1 billion in corporate tax incentives. That same year, Christie signed the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, which lifts limits on how much the state can give to corporations and developers, and greatly expands the geographic areas where companies can qualify.
One of the first actions Christie took upon entering office was to veto the continuation of New Jersey’s millionaires’ tax, which only affected the top 0.2 percent of New Jersey households and provided hundreds of millions in critically needed revenue in the midst of the recession. And just this past July, Christie tempted JPMorgan Chase to relocate to Jersey City with a $190 million tax break.
Mattie Harrell, international vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) blasted Chrstie’s fiscal policy:
“The reality is that Christie is trying to balance the state’s budget on the backs of public service workers while handing out massive tax subsidies to well-heeled corporations. Those giveaways are not creating the jobs he’s promised. And his broken promise to fund the state retirement system shows his disrespect for the workers of his own state. It’s shameless.”
As the embattled New Jersey governor limps along the presidential campaign trail, perhaps voters will ask him about his decisions to both expand corporate welfare while allowing thousands of chronically-disabled people to be forced out of their homes. Would he do the same if elected president?