(TRENTON) -- Assembly-approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Daniel R. Benson, Gilbert L. "Whip" Wilson, Angel Fuentes and Annette Quijano that would allow New Jersey residents to make a voluntary donation on their gross income tax return to support homeless veterans was advanced Monday by a Senate panel.
"We cannot be indifferent to the plight of these brave men and women, who did what their duty required and fought for our country and our freedoms while their own lives suffered," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "If every individual in the state gave a dollar, the term 'homeless veteran' might no longer be applicable in New Jersey."
"These are soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines; they are heroes," said Benson (D-Mercer). "And some of these heroes now need our help to keep a roof over their heads. This fund not only helps raise awareness of their plight, it will help some veterans get back on their feet."
"How embarrassing and maddening it must be for our veterans to have fought to keep our freedoms intact overseas and then to come back to find that they are powerless to keep a roof over their families," said Wilson (D-Camden), a member of the committee. "Our veterans fought to protect the American dream yet are coming home to a nightmare. Our donations can and will help."
"To see some of our fighting men and women who have sacrificed so much for us be reduced to homelessness because of their devotion to our country is just plain wrong," said Fuentes (D-Camden). "Legislation like this can help set thing right, however, by calling attention to the problem and giving concerned residents a direct way to help."
"How can we tell someone that fought to defend our homes that they no longer have one to come back to," said Quijano (D-Union). "We can't and we shouldn't. And maybe, if enough people chip in a few dollars from their income tax return, we won't have to in the future."
The bill (A-2011) establishes the New Jersey Homeless Veterans Grant Program and allows a voluntary gross income tax contribution to homeless veterans on the gross income tax return.
It establishes a special fund in the Department of the Treasury, the "Homeless Veterans Grant Fund," to which all contributions are deposited. The bill provides for the annual appropriation of the monies contained in the special fund to the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs to be used exclusively for the New Jersey Homeless Veterans Grant Program.
In addition, the bill provides that Legislature may deposit funds not collected pursuant to this legislation into the "Homeless Veterans Grant Fund," as it may, from time to time, deem appropriate.
The Assembly passed the measure 74-0 in January. It was released Monday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.