CWA Local 1081
60 Park Place, Suite 501
Newark, NJ, 07102
Office (973) 623-1081
Fax: (732) 988-1081

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Newark Teachers Union

New Jersey Citizen Action Oil Group

January 28, 2012

Yvonne Davis, Director

Essex County Division of Welfare

18 Rector Street, Floor 9

Newark, NJ, 07102

Re: Client Application Appointments

Dear Ms. Davis:

CWA Local 1081 has been informed by our Family Service Workers assigned to the Intake Unit within the Military Park Citizen Services Center located within the privately-owned 18 Rector Street, Newark site that they have been instructed to give clients applying for public assistance appointments dates far in excess of what is allowed by law.

For example, clients applying for assistance on January 23, 2012 were given an appointment date of March 13, 2012 which is fifty (50) days from the date the clients first approached our agency for assistance.

ยง 10:90-1.5 Prompt disposition by the county or municipal agency of the New Jersey Administrative Code mandates the following:

Persons shall be given the opportunity to comply with the eligibility requirements and apply for WFNJ benefits without delay. Staff of the county or municipal agency shall accept, process and recommend action on applications for assistance within 30 days. If the applicant is eligible, payment shall be issued as soon as eligibility is established. The county or municipal agency shall act promptly and timely on applications as long as the WFNJ participant is eligible for assistance and is complying with program requirements. Failure of the county or municipal agency to act promptly and timely shall not be a basis for denying or delaying the issuance of benefits. The county and municipal agency shall also act promptly and timely on redetermining eligibility, but failure of the county or municipal agency to act promptly and timely shall not be a basis for delay in granting assistance.

Our Union attributes the County of Essex's violation of the Code to a significant increase in client applications for assistance (do doubt exacerbated due to the economy) and to a chronic lack of sufficient number of agency staff available to service our clients.

As you are aware, the County of Essex has an arcane arrangement with the State of New Jersey whereby the latter "loans" the former $15 million each year in exchange for the former being required to maintain a minimum total staffing level of 822 employees. Unfortunately, our agency has never achieved, let alone maintained, that level of staffing. In fact, inasmuch as the above cited "deal" was cut between former Essex County Executive James Treffinger and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman back around 1997 in order to assist the former to maintain the charade of his no tax increase County budgets, the 822 number has long been rendered insufficient based upon our exponentially increasing client caseloads.

Making matters even worse, at the December 21, 2011 public meeting of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders the administration of Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo convinced that legislative body to approve the attached revised Resolution # 1 which cancelled $1,083,81 in funds budgeted in 2011 for the Division of Welfare's salaries and wages. Therefore, while the County possessed a million dollars that could have, and should have, been dedicated to hire sufficient numbers of staff to service our agency's clients in a timely and qualitative fashion the County's elected officials opted instead to cancel the $1 million appropriation.

CWA Local 1081 respectfully requests a conclave with you, in the guise of a Work Distribution and Practices Committee meeting per Article XXX of our Union's contract with the County of Essex, in order to discuss the abovementioned matter of such significant import to our Union's members and their clients.


David H. Weiner, President

CWA Local 1081

c: Jennifer Velez, Esq., DHS Commissioner

Jeanette Page-Hawkins, DFD Director

Joseph DiVincenzo, Essex County Executive

Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders

Anibal Ramos, Essex County Department of Citizen Services Director

Felipe Chavana, Essex/Newark Legal Services Project Inc. Director

Sue Livio, Star Ledger Reporter