Money for NORCs rather than pork

Money for NORCs rather than pork

When President Bush signed Congress’s multi-billion-dollar spending bill last week, he guaranteed funding that UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey desperately needed to continue its Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities program, which enables seniors to remain in their homes instead of moving into nursing homes.

The funds will allow UJA-NNJ to continue services such as congregational nursing, case management, home health aides, telephone reassurance, and cultural activities. The federation will continue to examine how best to use the funds, according to Alan Sweifach, UJA-NNJ’s director of strategic planning and allocations.

"We are going to target either high-rise or low-rise apartment buildings and provide a variety of assistance," Sweifach said.

United Jewish Communities’ national NORC program targets neighborhoods or buildings with high numbers of elderly residents. NORC — which began in New York in ’00’ — has more than 40 programs in ‘5 states and relies heavily on federal funding.

UJA-NNJ received a NORC allocation of $196,’35 in ‘004 from the Administration on Aging. The federation matched with a grant of $60,000. The money went toward meals-on-wheels, nurse visits to Temple Sholom in River Edge, and recreational programs. The funds had been for a demonstration project within Republican Rep. Scott Garrett’s fifth district, which includes New Milford, Paramus, River Edge, and Bergenfield. Now, the program will expand as funding allows, said Joy Kurland, director of UJA-NNJ’s Jewish Community Relations Council.

"We have a limited amount of money, we have to make it go as far as we can," she said. "If we identify NORC programs in areas we had not previously engaged in, now we’ll entertain branching out to a wider territory."

New Jersey’s representatives in Washington had secured $1.5 million for five of the state’s Jewish federations to continue the NORC program, but that funding was jeopardized in November when the president vetoed the labor bill to which the earmarks were attached. While the Senate voted to override the veto, the House failed to meet the necessary two-thirds majority, leaving the federations wondering if they would ever see the promised funds.

Almost all of the earmarks survived a negotiating process in Congress, however, and made it into the ‘008 omnibus spending bill. UJA-NNJ’s allocation of $16’,195 will allow it to resume its NORC program, which had been suspended since funding ran out in ‘006.

Although Kurland credits Garrett and Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez for initially including the earmarks in the bill, JCRC had worked with UJC’s national office to lobby Congress to keep them as it cut funding in order to gain the president’s approval.

"It was ongoing advocacy from the time of application to its final completion and realization," she said.

Although the UJC was pushing for the earmarks, the president’s veto of the labor bill came as no surprise, said Robert Goldberg, senior director of legislative affairs in UJC’s Washington office.

"The Labor-HHS Appropriations bill was contentious because it contained most of the increased domestic spending congressional Democrats were looking for above the overall spending limits requested by the president," he said.

While the Democrats moved most of the earmarks into the omnibus bill, UJC had been uncertain if the NORC earmarks would survive in the face of imminent cuts.

"After the congressional Democrats cut back on their overall spending, the administration softened its opposition to the package and the local projects were included in the final omnibus bill," he said.

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-Dist. 9), a member of the House Appropriations Committee who helped push through the earmarks, blamed the Bush administration for the delays in passing the funding. Although the president had blamed congressional Democrats for inflating the budget with earmarks, Rothman countered that the money requested was lower than earmarks the president had requested and approved when the Republicans controlled Congress.

Competition for earmark allocations has become even greater after the Democrats reduced the number of earmarks following Jan. 3, ‘007, when Bush called on Congress to halve the number of earmarks. The federal Office of Management and Budget tracked 13,49’ earmarks in ‘005, totaling $18,944,3’7,000, which included ‘8 earmarks totaling $4,’64,000 for New Jersey. The ‘008 spending bill included almost 9,800 earmarks totaling more than $10 billion.

Because of the greater competition for funding, Rothman was uncertain if the NORC earmarks would be renewed in the next budget.

"There’s no predicting with certainty which projects will be deemed the most important and most pressing in the future," he said. "But we certainly will be keeping in mind the needs of the population that is being served by these NORCs."

NORC funding to NJ federations:

UJA Federation of Northern NJ $16′,195

Jewish Federation of Middlesex County $’43,000

Jewish Federation of Central NJ $’87,036

Jewish Federation of
Greater Monmouth County $’87,036

UJC of MetroWest $478,7’1

Chemical legislation passes

The Department of Homeland Security will be unable to pre-empt New Jersey’s tough chemical industry security laws now because of a clause in the ‘008 omnibus spending bill put forward by Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Lautenberg, New Jersey’s senior senator, has championed the cause of the Garden State’s tighter security laws since calling a hearing last year when Homeland Security announced a series of chemical protection regulations that were not as strict as New Jersey’s. A statute in DHS’s charter allows it to bypass state laws that it views in conflict with its own, which caused concern across the Garden State because of its high number of chemical and industrial sites.

DHS argued that in the case of a terrorist attack, responsibility would ultimately fall upon the federal government. Therefore, the government must have the final word on security regulations. New Jersey’s laws require plants that use the most toxic substances to investigate whether they can switch to safer materials. DHS has no such requirement.

"States can now protect their residents from chemical attacks," Lautenberg said in a statement following the president’s signing last week. "My provision is essential to all states, especially New Jersey, which has the strongest chemical security laws in the nation."

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