New Jersey Expands Welfare Benefits for Former Drug Offenders

New Jersey residents who have served prison time for personal drug crimes will have greater access to certain welfare benefits and emergency cash support under a proposal signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Chris Christie.

But those convicted of drug distribution — including low-level dealers struggling to support their own addictions — still won’t enjoy this same safety net.

While those who did time for non-drug related crimes are eventually eligible for government assistance, the 1996 federal welfare reform law excluded Americans found guilty in cases involving controlled substances from receiving benefits over their entire lives. New Jersey is among the more than two dozen states that chose to permit parents convicted of drug offenses to collect federal benefits if they have dependent children; the state also allows individuals with drug records to get state-issued public assistance if they are participating in certain drug treatment programs.

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