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Vainieri Huttle-Sponsored Bills to Help Seniors Clear Hurdles

Two bills co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle designed to help seniors contending with identity theft and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cleared important hurdles.

Protecting Seniors Against Identity Theft

The Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee approved legislation co-sponsored by Assembly members Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Danielsen, and Shanique Speight aiming to protect seniors from financial abuse, identity theft and fraudulent schemes.

The bill (A-655) looked to address financial fraud, one of the fastest-growing forms of elder abuse. The co-sponsors noted seniors were often the target of door-to-door scams, phone schems, and online and traditional mail fraud. Often, they are asked to exchange personal, identifying information for a quick prize or reward.

“Scammers frequently target seniors for their financial assets,” said Vainieri Huttle. “Many seniors have substantial savings, own their homes and have great credit. We want to make sure every senior citizen knows how to recognize fraudulent schemes so that they may protect the assets they worked so hard for.”

The measure would mandate the Director of the Division of Consumers Affairs develop a notice designed for seniors to describe and warn against identity theft, with instructions for the Department of Human Services to distribute the notice to seniors.

The legislation was referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Streamlining the SNAP Application Process for Seniors

Meanwhile, legislation backed by Vainieri Huttle and co-sponsored by Assembly members Vince Mazzeo and John Armato is intended to make it easier for New Jersey seniors to participate in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cleared an Assembly panel and is headed to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

The bill (A-2281) would instruct the Commissioner of Human Services to review and streamline the SNAP application process for senior citizens, specifically developing and deploying a simplified SNAP application form; increase data sharing between social services and programs; and find effective ways to cross-enroll seniors in State Medicaid and SNAP.

Additionally, it would require the Department of Human Services to offer outreach programs to find seniors who could be enrolled in the program, using all available media.

The co-sponsors noted only 8% of New Jersey residents over the age of 60 use SNAP, representing about 142,000 of the state’s senior citizens. Armato argued seniors with limited mobility may have trouble with visiting a SNAP office, or may not be able to access the internet effectively to sign up for the program.

Vainieri Huttle noted many seniors subsist on a fixed income, and that budget primarily focuses on rent, mortgage or car payments, with food sometimes losing priority.

“We don’t want to see seniors buy less food than they truly need, or get to a place where they cannot afford to eat. Simplifying the SNAP application process and raising awareness for the program will ensure more seniors take advantage of this valuable resource,” she said.

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