Legislation Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker, Ralph Caputo, Tom Giblin Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to increase the monthly personal needs allowance for residents in certain state facilities for the first time in 30 years gained Assembly approval on Thursday.
"For some men and women who require special attention, long-term care may be the best option, and it's important that residents of these facilities can remain as independent as possible," said Tucker (D-Essex). "By increasing the personal needs allowance and tying it to the cost of living, this bill will help ensure that individuals in state institutions can have the highest quality of life possible."
Specifically, the bill (A-3084) would increase the minimum monthly personal needs allowance (PNA) for residents of nursing facilities, state or county psychiatric hospitals and state developmental centers who are not eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The measure would raise the allowance to a minimum of $50 from $35. It would be the first such increase in 30 years, Tucker noted.
The bill would also provide for an annual cost-of-living adjustment to the PNA, which may be used to purchase personal items such as clothing, grooming aids, newspapers and other items not regularly provided in the facility.
"Although the cost of living has increased significantly in New Jersey since 1985, the personal needs allowance has not gone up in three decades," said Caputo (D-Essex). "Providing a few extra dollars for a haircut or to buy a birthday card is a small gesture that can go a long way toward improving the quality of life for many residents of state facilities."
"Regardless of whether or not a person is in an institution, being able to address personal hygiene, pursue one's interests and connect with friends and family adds fullness to life," said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). "Increasing the personal needs allowance in New Jersey is long overdue."
"Increasing the personal needs allowance is about making sure that some of our state's most vulnerable residents have enough money to cover basic quality of life expenses," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This much-needed legislation promotes the right of all residents of state facilities in New Jersey to be happy and healthy."
"Ensuring that residents in these types of state facilities have sufficient funds to purchase small personal items is a compassionate move," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Given how much the cost of living has increased over the last 30 years, this is long overdue."
In the case of SSI recipients, the bill states that the commissioner of Human Services would administer the increase provided for in the bill if the federal government, which provides a $30 basic monthly allowance, cannot do so. Current law provides that the commissioner is to ensure that the increase is not counted as income for the SSI recipient and thereby deducted from his or her federal payment.
The bill, which passed 51-3-18 in the Assembly, now awaits further consideration in the Senate.