Seniors across the state will get some financial relief to cope with the summer heat thanks to an emergency assistance program announced by Governor Chris Christie, who paid a visit to Hasbrouck Heights Monday.
Approximately 135,000 seniors and disabled households will receive $100 this month in the form of a credit on their utility bills or a check in the mail if a credit cannot be processed, according to the governor, who addressed local and county officials at the Hasbrouck Heights senior housing building. Christie discussed the senior funds in addition to his weight, and other issues including the debt ceiling in his first public appearance since his health scare on Thursday.
In addition, about 47,000 other households that received medically-required cooling assistance will also receive the $100 supplemental benefit to address the utility bills.
“The fact that seniors are going through challenges in New Jersey is without question. The economy is difficult for everyone," Christie said."We are trying to do as much as we can to make sure seniors stay in New Jersey. Stay in the place where they raised their families. Stay in the place where they can continue to see their children and grandchildren and continue to be a vital part of the community.”
“In order to be able to do that we need to work hard to make it more affordable for them," he said.
This supplemental funding comes through the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally-funded initiative that helps low-income residents with their heating and cooling bills, and makes provisions for emergency heating system services and emergency fuel assistance.
Those eligible for such benefits must have a gross income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and must be responsible for their own home heating or cooling costs, directly or through rent.
“It’s not going to fix the whole problem but certainly better than not addressing it all,” Christie said.
The governor’s news was accepted well by many of the seniors in attendance. John Belluccio, who resides in the senior housing development in Heights said, “It’s about time seniors are being helped. Although it’s small, it’s still appreciated.”
“Everyone needs a little bit of help,” said senior resident Kathleen Nanetti, who added that she thought the governor is really trying to help them. Dorothy Fitzen, president of the Leisure Club in Hasbrouck Heights called the governor “remarkable” and said she enjoyed what he had to say.
Mayor Rose Heck said she was very proud that Christie chose to make this announcement not only in Bergen County but in Hasbrouck Heights.
Following his announcement Christie addressed questions regarding his health in relation to the asthma attack he was treated for this past Thursday. Christie joked about his weight and told the audience he continues to “feel fine.” He said within 20 minutes of getting to the hospital that day he felt better and had there been a larger issue oxygen alone would not have been enough to help. He will return for follow up visits with the doctor this week, he said.
When asked how the debt ceiling deal which President Obama and congressional leaders reached last night would affect New Jersey, Christie said he had not yet read the plan in order to really give his take on it, however he did state he was glad “they finally did something.”
He went on to share his views on divided government stating that it “is challenging but not impossible” noting what New Jersey has accomplished over the past 18 months with divided government.