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Family and Relationships

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Home Page > Family and Relationships > Domestic Violence > Domestic Violence: A Guide to the Legal Rights of Domestic Violence Victims in New Jersey

G. Public Assistance


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If you have a very low income, you may be able to receive monthly cash assistance from the welfare agency. You can go to your county welfare agency to apply for these benefits. If you need immediate help because you do not have shelter, food, or clothing, let the agency know. If you meet their other eligibility requirements, they must either give you cash right away or refer you to another agency that will provide you food, shelter, clothing, or cash.

You might also want to ask your caseworker to keep your address confidential. If you participate in the Address Confidentiality Program, you will only have to give the welfare agency the designated address you were given by the program.

When you apply for welfare, tell the welfare agency that you are a victim of domestic violence. There are special welfare rules for domestic violence victims, called the Family Violence Option. The welfare office is supposed to tell you about these rules and offer you a chance to apply for them.

  • The welfare agency requires women applying for or receiving welfare to identify the father of their children so that the agency can collect child support. Victims of domestic violence can be excused from this requirement if they fear that providing information will result in harm to themselves or their children.
  • Generally, welfare recipients must get work or participate in work activities right away, but domestic violence victims may get some additional time if they need it because of domestic violence.
  • Welfare benefits are limited to 60 months, but victims can get additional benefits if they need more time due to domestic violence.
  • Although there are generally no additional cash benefits for children born while the mother receives welfare, the grant will usually be increased when children are conceived as a result of rape, incest, or domestic violence.

Getting help from the welfare agency. For these exceptions to apply to you, you must let the welfare agency know that you are a victim of domestic violence. You do not have to discuss this with your caseworker. The welfare agency will refer you to a family violence specialist within the welfare agency. The family violence specialist will then refer you to a domestic violence service provider who will determine whether you qualify for an exception to the welfare rules. If so, they will work with you to develop a safety and service plan to help you become self-sufficient. You will work on meeting the plan goals with the domestic violence service provider. The plan and information about services you receive will not be shared with the welfare office and will be confidential.

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Emergency Assistance (EA)

You may feel that it is impossible for you and your family to move away from your abuser because you have little or no money and no one to turn to for help. If you leave your residence and are homeless because of domestic violence, you should be eligible to receive a special public assistance grant, known as Emergency Assistance (EA), to help you pay for emergency shelter or a new residence. You will need to explain your situation to the welfare office. If you have children age 18 or younger who will be moving with you, you may apply for EA at your county welfare agency. If you do not have children, you should call your county welfare agency to find out whether you need to apply there or at your municipal welfare office. If you have moved from your usual residence to a new county or town, you may apply in the county or town where you are staying, even if your stay is only temporary. The welfare agency will send a caseworker to see you if you cannot go to the office because you are in the hospital or you fear being harmed.

EA payments are made for a period of up to 12 months. If you still do not have housing at the end of 12 months, you may be eligible for an extension. Assistance may be provided for temporary shelter, rent, food, clothing, security deposits for rent and utilities, and for certain home furnishings, such as beds and kitchen equipment. The amount you are given will depend on the number of people in your household. You should receive Emergency Assistance on the day you apply.

If you meet the income qualifications for welfare assistance, you have the right to receive EA. If the welfare agency denies your application for EA, or unduly delays granting such assistance, you should request an emergency fair hearing. The telephone number to call to ask for a fair hearing is 1-800-792-9773. The emergency hearing will be held within three working days of receipt of the request, and the director of the State Division of Family Development will give a final decision on the case within five working days.

You also may call the regional Legal Services program that serves your county and ask for assistance. You can find a list of Legal Services programs, addresses, and telephone numbers on the inside front cover of this handbook. You also may call the toll-free statewide legal hotline, LSNJ-LAW™, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529).

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Food stamps/SNAP

If you are not already receiving food stamps/SNAP, you should apply for food stamps/SNAP when you apply for EA. If you have less than $100 in cash and earn less than $150 per month (gross income or before taxes), or if your total gross monthly household income and available cash are less than your monthly rent and utilities or mortgage, you are entitled to receive “expedited” services. This means that your food stamps/SNAP will be processed and available within seven working days of the day you apply. It is important that you tell the welfare agency that you are applying for expedited services. If you do not qualify for expedited services because your income and resources are considered too high, yet you are still found eligible to receive food stamps/SNAP, your food stamps/SNAP will be processed and available within 30 days of the day you apply. The amount of food stamps/SNAP you receive will depend upon your income and the number of people in your household.

Unfortunately, emergency fair hearings are not available in food stamp/SNAP cases. If you are denied food stamps/SNAP or you disagree with the amount granted, you should request a fair hearing. You can request a fair hearing by calling 1-800-792-9773. Although you can request that the hearing be held quickly, the process can take up to 90 days.

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Copyright © 2010 Legal Services of New Jersey

This information last reviewed 11/2/11


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Low-income New Jerseyans can get free legal help by phone: call our toll-free hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Outside of New Jersey, please call 732-572-9100 and ask to be transferred to the hotline.