FILE - NJ Steve Sweeney 3-25-2019

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (left) speaks to reporters March 25, 2019 in Trenton, N.J.

(The Center Square) – A New Jersey Senate committee has advanced a bill to allocate an additional $180 million to a trio of state agencies to help social service providers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee voted 8-0 to advance S-3323. The measure would allocate funding to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) “for increased payments for social service providers” and the Department of Health (DOH) “for increased payments for early intervention providers.”

“The COVID crisis has created difficult demands for the programs and services that provide vital care for those who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the elderly,” Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland, said in a news release.

“The hardships that everyone is experiencing because of the pandemic are even worse for these providers and those they care for,” Sweeney added. “This funding will provide a financial lifeline that will allow them to survive the crisis.”

The additional funding would boost payments to direct care providers with state contracts or fee-for-service agreements with the state, including child care providers, early intervention services and substance abuse programs.

Without the money, “many providers could be forced to close, causing a considerable strain on the network of social services providers and resulting in massive layoffs of workers, many of whom are low-wage earners, women, and minorities,” Sweeney said.

The Division of Budget and Accounting director and the Joint Budget Oversight Committee would determine how much each agency would receive. Any payment increases under the measure will be retroactive to all payments issued during the 2021 fiscal year.

“Those with intellectual and developmental disabilities have always been among the most vulnerable populations in the state,” state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, said in a news release. “After living with a pandemic for almost a year, things have only gotten more challenging and difficult.

“We need to support the essential services and programs that care for this population, and support their families,” Singleton added. “Appropriations like these will save both services and lives.”