Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle) strongly disagrees with a statement made recently by Governor Chris Christie that New Jersey should force recipients of welfare and other state assistance programs to submit to costly and demeaning drug testing in order to receive benefits.
Holley was raised by a single grandparent along with two brothers and his family benefitted from several state assistance programs including Welfare, Food Stamps and educational scholarships. These programs enabled him to survive as a child and to thrive as an adult, with him eventually becoming the youngest mayor in the history of the Borough of Roselle before being appointed earlier this year as the first African-American to represent the 20th Legislative District.
"Governor Christie's comments are political pandering at its absolute worst and a slap in the face to the thousands of working families in New Jersey who are being crushed under the stagnant state economy that his agenda has produced," said Assemblyman Holley, who won a contested Primary Election in June and is now running for a full two-year term in the upcoming General Election. "People like my grandmother who needed public assistance are looking for a helping hand and a chance to build a better life for their families. What they don't need is the Governor of our state reinforcing damaging, negative stereotypes about poor people just to score points in his hopeless campaign for President."
Forcing drug testing on public assistance recipients has become a popular far-right talking point embraced by several of the Republican candidates for President, despite its record of ineffectiveness. The policy is currently used in seven states and each has seen thousands of dollars in taxpayer resources spent on expensive urine testing with few, if any, tangible results. Assemblyman Holley believes that these funds would be much better spent on expanding benefits to working families instead of belittling them.
“Instead of needlessly demonizing the less fortunate, we should be making investments in the policies that would actually improve our economy and lift more families into the middle class,” said Holley. “New Jersey needs a progressive agenda that will actually help our working families by supporting policies like early childhood education, earned sick days, paid family leave and more. We don’t need a Governor who is more interested in appealing to far-right radical conservatives than in actually accomplishing something.”