New Jersey lawmakers advance bills to help residents with developmental disabilities

(The Center Square) – The New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced legislation to help New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities transition from high school to independent lives.

A-6228/S-4211 would allocate $4.5 million annually from the General Fund to the Secretary of Higher Education to establish county college-based adult centers for transition for individuals up to 24 years old with developmental disabilities.

A-6230/S-4102 would allocate $450,000 from the General Fund to the Secretary of Higher Education to establish a center for direct support professionals by the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development.

In a joint statement, Assembly members Daniel Benson, D-Mercer, Middlesex; Pedro Mejia, D-Bergen, Hudson; Shanique Speight, D-Essex; and Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon, praised the advancement of the bills.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic carries on, it is more important than ever to ensure that our residents with developmental disabilities have the tools they need to transition out of our public school system and successfully take on the world,” the lawmakers said.

“Disruptions to the school year have only added to the stress that many students with developmental disabilities feel as they age out of the public school system and are forced to adjust to a new normal,” they added. “We have the opportunity to provide these individuals with much needed support that will put them in a better position to lead independent and rewarding lives through higher education or by joining the workforce.”

The bills now head to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, for further consideration.

“Once individuals with developmental disabilities exit the secondary school system, there is often a sudden void that leaves them unable to reach greater productivity and independence,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas said in a statement. “Developing career pathways for individuals with disabilities is important for them and for businesses as well.”

The Assembly Appropriations Committee also advanced A-6062/S-4210. It requires the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to launch a loan program to help businesses with a net income of $1 million or less provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

Separately, the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee advanced S-3809/A-5986 to allow taxpayers to claim a corporation business or gross income tax credit of 10% of the salary and wages paid to an employee with a developmental disability.

The credit is capped at $3,000 per employee and $60,000 per taxpayer per year. The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) determined the measure could potentially reduce state revenues by about $90.6 million annually.

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