BY SALVATORE PIZZURO
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, The poverty rate in New Jersey has continued to climb over the past four years. Furthermore, Legal Services of New Jersey asserts that one in every four New Jerseyans live in poverty. Among these people are the working poor. Individuals with full time jobs and making seven or eight dollars per hour are just a step or two away from homelessness. Often, a sudden illness serves as the catalyst for them to miss time from work and, thus, the inevitable eviction from their tiny apartment occurs.
Many among the working poor earn up to twenty dollars per hour, but are trying to feed several children, pay rent, maintain an automobile in order to get to work, but do not qualify for food stamps. Their lives are a constant struggle for survival.
The above scenario serves a one of the reasons why many Democrats have criticized the Governor’s plan for tax cuts that would serve the wealthy residents of our State. Only Hurricane Sandy, and its inevitable economic consequences, may kill the tax cut plan.
The members of the working poor do not struggle to own a home. Such a dream is not a reality. Rather, they struggle to keep a roof over their heads and that of their children. Homelessness is expected to rise over the next few years. More and more stories of families living in their broken down automobile will become public. However, little will be done to help these people.
Our Governor’s plan to help homeowners serves only a fraction of New Jersey’s populace. These homeowners represent a shrinking middle class. The working poor and those unemployed will become an ever increasing segment of the population.
Legal Services of New Jersey predicts that this trend of increasing poverty numbers will continue. As working families become part of New Jersey’s “underclass”’, a greater strain on the State to provide welfare services will come into play. Yet, what is to be done?
Perhaps the Governor can begin by returning those laid-off teachers, policeman and other public workers to the workforce. Our Governor has not lowered property taxes since taking office. Yet, he has claimed a “Jersey comeback” which does not exist. Food pantries are running out if food as the State fiddles with plans which forget the homeless, the working poor, the needy and vulnerable.
The time to take corrective action is now!