Ocean County Press Release
TOMS RIVER – Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari is calling upon the state to reconsider any planned cuts to New Jersey's Senior Freeze and Homestead Rebate property tax relief programs.
"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," said Vicari, who serves as Chairman of the Ocean County Office of Senior Services. "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."
The Senior Freeze Program is an extremely important benefit that older adults rely on to supplement their fixed income, Vicari said.
The program reimburses eligible senior citizens and disabled persons for property tax or mobile home park site fee increases on their principal residence. To qualify, seniors must meet all the eligibility requirements for each year from the base year through the application year.
"While the amount of the reimbursement check varies, this benefit is a big help for our seniors," Vicari said.
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.
"Both of these programs are critical to the ongoing self-sufficiency and financial security of older adults in Ocean County," Vicari said. "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," Vicari said. "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 noted about 60,000 seniors in Ocean County could be affected if these cuts are made.
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. Moreover, elders in Ocean County 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."