Ocean County provided housing for 2,065 individuals and families in 2013 and provided prevention assistance – including back rental and mortgage payments, back utility payments and security deposits – for 1,024 more, officials said.
The assistance was paid by a combination of county and state funding, which has been renewed for this year. Officials announced Wednesday at the Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting that Ocean County would receive $736,364 in state funding towards social services.
The number of Ocean County families receiving public assistance has steady increased in the last several years, spurred first by the recession and compounded by Superstorm Sandy. Last year, 6,528 individuals and families received some form of assistance from the county, Freeholder Gerry P. Little said. More than 2,800 families were given emergency food and 619 individuals and families received case management services, he added.
“All together, Ocean County is allocating between $50 and $60 million for more than 60 programs to serve more than 113,000 of our most vulnerable residents, including low-income families, senior citizens and the homeless,” Little said.
The state grant funding. which was increased by about $50,000 over last year, represents just a fraction of the county’s total spending on means tested social services programs along. The Freeholders also allocated more than $23 million to the Ocean County Board of Social Services in 2014.
In addition to the most costly items such as housing and food, the board provides alcohol and drug abuse treatment, health screenings, transportation, Women and Infants Care (WIC), job training and placement, mental health services, immunizations, dental care and many other programs.
The county has faced a skyrocketing number of people requesting assistance since the beginning of the 2008 recession. Emergency assistance has increased 201 percent since 2007, while general assistance is up 109 percent and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is up 77 percent in the same time frame. About 62,000 county residents receive food stamps, statistics show.
Ocean County has led the state in increased requests for the majority of services, Little has said.