TOMS RIVER – Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari wants the state to reconsider any planned reductions to New Jersey’s Senior Freeze and Homestead Rebate property tax relief programs.
Vicari, who serves as chairman of the county’s office of senior services said, “with more than 173,000 seniors living in Ocean County, these programs provide substantial help to our seniors many of whom are living solely on monthly Social Security checks.
“When your monthly income is no more than $1,400 from Social Security, taking away these programs will only increase the severe financial hardship already experienced by this vulnerable population,” Vicari said.
To qualify for the senior freeze, seniors must meet all the eligibility requirements for each year from the base year through the application year.
The Homestead Rebate Benefit program also provides property tax relief to eligible homeowners. For most homeowners, the benefit is distributed to their municipality in the form of a credit, which reduces their property taxes.
Vicari said, “both of these programs are critical to the ongoing self-sufficiency and financial security of older adults in Ocean County. It’s imperative that we all advocate for our seniors so they can hold on to the programs that provide them some property tax relief.”
“Our most vulnerable and frailest residents have been greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, counties and municipalities have worked hand in hand to provide as much assistance as possible to help them through this time. This proposed action by the state will be a detriment to the people who have been affected the most,” Vicari added
Around 60,000 seniors in Ocean County could be affected if these cuts are made and according to the Elder Economic Security Standard, the average Social Security benefit provides an elderly person living alone in Ocean County only 54 to 76 percent of the amount needed to cover basic expenses.
Ocean County seniors living alone on an income equivalent to the federal poverty guideline can cover only 36 to 51 percent of their basic living expenses.
“The effect on Ocean County will be disproportionate from the rest of the state because we have the largest senior population in the state,” Vicari said. “Now is not the time to introduce this change.”