TRENTON, NJ – Legislation Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Eric Houghtaling, Pamela Lampitt, Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley are sponsors of a bill that would help provide more veterans with counseling, employment and housing services..

            “New Jersey’s veteran population is made up of people who were willing to give their lives for the United States of America. At the very least, they deserve to rest assured that they can get help when they need it – whether it’s talking to a therapist or finding an apartment,” said Downey
(D-Monmouth). “Providing funding to help these men and women is part of honoring our obligation to those who served.”

            The bill (A-1102), to be known as the “Veterans Assistance Grant Program Act,” would establish a program within the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to provide grants to government entities and nonprofit organizations to support mental health services, family counseling services, job training and employment services and housing assistance for New Jersey’s veterans.

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            “The transition to civilian life can be tough for some veterans,” said Houghtaling
(D-Monmouth). “Anything our state can do to make that process a bit easier is a worthy endeavor.”

            “An organization can have great intentions and a hard-working staff, but if it doesn’t have enough funding, it can’t help veterans in need,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Creating this funding mechanism will better equip entities to maximize their efforts on behalf of veterans in New Jersey.”

            “Now more than ever, we must provide critical mental health, counseling, and transitional assistance to our veterans,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), who is the only former Marine serving in the General Assembly. “The recent suicides of Kate Spate and Anthony Bourdain, individuals who appear to have the world at their fingertips but may nevertheless be suffering unimaginable emotional pain, underscore the importance of making these programs and services readily available.”    

            “We should always make it a point to thank veterans, as well as men and women actively serving in the military, for their sacrifices to our country,” said Holley (D-Union). “This bill extends that ‘thank you’ beyond words—it puts it into action.”

           Funds to support the grant program may be derived from: money appropriated by the legislature; gifts, grants or donations to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; return on investment of money deposited into the fund; fees collected from applicants; and other funds, including, but not limited to, funds provided by agreement with private investors or the federal government.

            Under the legislation, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs would be required to submit an annual report to the governor and the legislature regarding the grant recipients, the services provided to veterans, the importance of the financial incentive in a program participant’s decision to provide particular services to veterans and the extent to which the homeless veteran population has diminished as a result of the grant program. 

             The measure was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. It will now go to the Appropriations Committee for further review.