By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey
The recent cold spell reminds us of our neighbors who are without the basic necessities for staying warm as temperatures dip below freezing. For too many at-risk residents, it is a lack of a warm home. Some lack things as fundamental as a warm pair of socks.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to raise questions about how we protect people in need during a disaster or major emergency. That’s why we have introduced a bill to create an Emergency Response Liaison for people with special needs in the state Office of Emergency Management. The idea came from a meeting with Rutgers University Professor Javier Robles, an organizer of the New Jersey Disabilities COVID-19 Action Committee, and former deputy director of the state Division of Division of Disability Services.
The Emergency Response Liaison would work with local governments to coordinate and oversee emergency responses to people with special needs. The bill also calls for local, county and state OEMs to educate the public on resources available in an emergency, and come up with plans to address issues such as safely evacuating families and dependents of the emergency responders who are away from their homes helping others during a disaster.
During the last legislative session, we took steps to help people who lack shelter from the cold with a bill to open emergency warming centers sooner when it gets cold. Our bill updated New Jersey’s Code Blue Law by requiring emergency warming centers to open when the National Weather Service forecasts temperatures of 32 degrees or lower. Under the prior law, Code Blue Emergencies were triggered by forecasts of 25 degrees or 32 degrees with precipitation. For hundreds of at-risk individuals and families, that difference meant waiting hours in freezing conditions for the warmth of a shelter.
There is something each of us can do to help people who are struggling to stay warm: Donate some socks. It may seem like a small thing, but if you’re challenged by the temporary lack of a home, a few new pairs of warm socks make a difference. We can see that our resolution designating every February 14 as “Socks for the Homeless Day” has raised awareness. Your donations of new socks in all sizes at our Legislative District 11 office grow each year. We deliver the socks to local shelters and nonprofit organizations to distribute to people who are homeless. You can mail socks through the end of February to our Legislative District 11 Office at 802 West Park Avenue, Suite 302, Ocean Township, NJ 07712, or make a donation online at the Amazon Wishlist we created at this link, tinyurl.com/LD11Socks. You may also call our office at (732) 695-3371 and make arrangements to drop socks off in person.
One final note for people who own or are considering an electric vehicle. We introduced a bill this week to ensure that electrical vehicle owners pay only for the electricity they actually purchase. The bill prohibits timed-use and per-charge pricing in the sale of plug-in electric vehicle charging services. Pricing would be based on a per-kilowatt-hour basis, a subscription fee, or another reasonable basis to be determined by the Board of Public Utilities.
Afterall, when you gas up a car, you pay the amount they put in your tank, not how long you sit at the pump.