(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Elizabeth Muoio and Jamel Holley to examine the effect of poverty on the development of children in economically destressed areas of the state, and develop recommendations to improve their lives was released Monday by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.

The bill (A-3607) would establish the “New Jersey Investing in You Promise Neighborhood Commission” to examine the effect of poverty on the development of the children in the state’s most fiscally distressed urban and rural areas, and to develop recommendations about how local nonprofits, civic organizations, religious institutions, and institutions of higher education in the state can help to support and improve the lives of children living in these areas.

“The detrimental effects of poverty on children are wide-raging. This not only hurts families, but entire communities,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Children are the future. We have to make a concerted effort to help these families climb out of poverty so these children will not be scarred by the chaos created by poverty and are able to reach their full potential.”

There are currently two federally-designated Promise Neighborhoods in the state. They are located in Newark and Camden. Under the bill, the commission would be tasked with:

  • analyzing the current status of the state’s two federally-designated Promise Neighborhoods, located in Newark and Camden, and its impact on the residents of those municipalities, and creating a report describing its successes, identifying areas in need of improvement, determining whether it is possible to expand the program to other municipalities, and if so, identifying funding that would be available to do so;
  • creating a master action plan to expand the number of Promise Neighborhoods in the state by 2017, with a focus on Trenton, Paterson, and Vineland. The plan shall outline the strategies and target the logistics specific to the expansion throughout the state of the program; and
  • designing a plan for the creation of a Promise Neighborhood that will replicate, guide, and provide technical assistance for all programs throughout the State, and a plan for the efficient use of federal or State funds that may be allocated for the expansion of the Promise Neighborhood Initiative in New Jersey.

“Poverty robs children of the opportunities that are vital to their success,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “We see the impact of generational poverty on families and neighborhoods and we owe it to these families and children to help them break this vicious cycle.”

“It is difficult to plan and have aspirations for the future when you’re on survival mode,” said Holley (D-Union). “Poverty takes a tremendous toll on families. If we want our children to grow up to be successful, we have to invest in solutions that will help these families overcome poverty.”

The commission would be composed of 20 members, including the mayors of Newark, Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Vineland, and the presidents of Thomas Edison State College, the College of New Jersey, Rowan University, Rutgers University and Passaic County Community College. The bill also makes a $2 million appropriation for the operation of the commission.

The bill would take effect immediately, and the commission would expire on the 30th day next following the submission of its report.