Day: October 17, 2020

BREAKING: Large Fight Involving Around 25 People Requires Mutual Aid Response, One Transported To Local Hospital

UPDATED INFORMATION AND STORY HERE: UPDATE: 6 Charged In East Windsor Fight, Includes Assault On Police Officers

Go to above link for updates to story;

BREAKGING NEWS REPORT: Information is from radio traffic and on scene reporting. Once confirmed by official police sources the story may be modified, additions and corrections made if any are needed.

October 17, 2020

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Around 11:15 pm a large fight broke out near Lake Drive and Bennigton Drive reportedly involving around 25 people, reported to be minors. A mutual aid police response was requested from surrounding departments and additional EMS agencies stood by at the service station at Route 33 and Lake Drive. One person was transported by East Windsor First Aid Squad to Princeton Medical Center. The situation was deescalated around midnight and mutual aid ambulances and police returned.

Hundreds of Jeep’s and Trucks Take Over Jersey Shore Town

October 17, 2020

Photos and story by: Tyler Eckel

SEASIDE HEIGHTS (OCEAN)–Hundreds of Jeep’s and Trucks gathered Saturday morning in Seaside Heights for the “Jeep Show on the Beach Jeep Luau 2020” and the “4×4 Beach Takeover” car show. These Jeep’s and Trucks didn’t just take over Seaside Height’s strip, but also filled parking lots and even the beach itself! The show consisted of races and other competitions, including a competition for best car. It was scheduled from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, October 17 and was definitely the “takeover” they were hoping for.

Overturned Vehicle On NJTP At Exit 8 Injures 4

October 17, 2020

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Around 8:30 pm a car traveling north bound in the inner lanes of the NJ Turnpike overturned just prior to Exit 8 that left 4 injured. At least 2 were transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, others reported minor injuries but refused medical advice and transport.

Hightstown Fire Company, Cranbury Fire Company, Hightstown First Aid Squad, East Windsor First Aid Squad and Mercer County Paramedics responded to the scene. A light pole was reported to be knocked down partly blocking the Exit 8 Ramp. NJ State Police is investigating the crash.

Slow Down, Move Over! National Move Over Day

October 17, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Saturday October 17, 2020 is National Move Over Day.

Under New Jersey’s “Move Over” law, drivers are required to reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching an authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck or highway maintenance, emergency service or sanitation vehicle that is displaying flashing, blinking or alternating emergency lights.

Unfortunately, law enforcement, emergency workers and tow truck operators continue to be struck and injured or killed while aiding others on the side of the road because a passing vehicle did not sufficiently slow down and move over.

When you see flashing lights on the side of the road, slow down, and if it’s safe, MOVE OVER. If you make the move, others will follow.

MidJersey.News articles involving Slow Down, Move Over type incidents:

UPDATE: NJSP Col. Callahan And Govenor Phil Murphy Provide Update On Crash; Trooper Will Be OK After Being Thrown 30 Feet June 22, 2020

BREAKING: NJ State Police Vehicle Destroyed By Dump Truck On NJ Turnpike — June 22, 2020

BREAKING: NJ State Police Vehicle Struck On NJ Turnpike Sending 1 To Hospital June 7, 2020

SLOW DOWN MOVE OVER: NJTP Car Fire And Rubberneck 3 Car Accident June 4, 2020

Trenton Man Arrested For Aggravated Assault After Striking Police Officer With Vehicle And Fleeing Scene

NJSP Troop “C” Hamilton, 10th Anniversary Of When Trooper Was Struck By Passing Motorist On I-195

Marc K. Castellano was born on July 15, 1980 in Lakewood, New Jersey and lived in Jackson until he moved to Howell, New Jersey in 2004. He was a graduate of Jackson Memorial High School in 1998 and received a Jackson PBA scholarship that year. He received his associate’s degree from Ocean County College in 2000, a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University in 2003 and a Master’s degree at Farleigh Dickinson University in 2010. Marc was a two-year starter at middle linebacker from 1996-1997 and a team captain during his senior year for the Jackson Memorial High School football team.

Trooper Castellano enlisted in the New Jersey State Police on September 24, 2004, as a member of the 136th Class and was assigned to the Troop “C” Tactical Patrol Unit #1 at the time of his death. His service with the New Jersey State Police was characterized by loyalty, fearless performance of his duty and faithful and honorable devotion to the principles of the New Jersey State Police.

Trooper Castellano died as a result of injuries received while in the performance of duty.

At approximately 10:00 am on Sunday, June 6, 2010, Trooper Castellano was walking along the shoulder of Interstate 195 West near the Exit 31 ramp in Howell Township. He was searching for an alleged armed occupant of an abandoned vehicle that was connected to an ongoing investigation when he was struck by a passing motorist. He was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, New Jersey, where he died several hours later from his injuries.

Trooper Castallano served 5 years and 8 months with the New Jersey State Police.

He is survived by his parents, a brother, his wife and two children. Trooper Castellano was 29 years old.

New Jersey Statute 39:4-92.2

Procedure for motorist approaching certain stationary vehicle.

1. a. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle as defined in R.S.39:1-1 that is displaying a flashing, blinking or alternating red or blue light or, any configuration of lights containing one of these colors, shall approach the authorized emergency vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection a. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.

b. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary tow truck as defined in section 1 of P.L.1999, c.396 (C.39:3-84.6) that is displaying a flashing amber light, a stationary highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle that is operated by the State, an authority or a county or municipality and displaying flashing yellow, amber, or red lights, or a stationary sanitation vehicle displaying a flashing amber warning light pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2011, c.3 (C.39:3-54.27) shall approach the vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the tow truck, highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle, or sanitation vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of subsection b. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.

c. A violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $500.

L. 2017, c.43, s.1.

11 More Victims In $560k Jewelry Theft

October 17, 2020

Read related MidJersey.News story here: Rumson Businessman Charged With Theft, Anthony Goltsch, of Manchester Township in Ocean County, and the owner of the Golden Goose jewelry store located at 7 West River Road in Rumson, was charged today with second degree Theft By Failure To Make Required Disposition of Property Received.

RUMSON, NJ (MONMOUTH)–The owner of a Rumson jewelry store charged with theft in September is now facing additional charges after 11 new victims came forward to report being victimized. The new victims revealed the jeweler failed to return jewelry totaling about $300,000 that was left at his store on consignment, for redesign, or for repair, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Anthony Goltsch, of Manchester Township in Ocean County, and the owner of the Golden Goose jewelry store located at 7 West River Road in Rumson, was charged Tuesday with another count of second degree Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Property Received. Goltsch is now charged with the theft of jewelry valued at approximately $560,000.

Victim 1 consigned a ring with an appraised value of $45,000 to Goltsch in April 2019. Victim has not received any payment for the ring and has attempted to get the ring back on numerous occasions, but Goltsch has not returned or paid the victim for the ring.

Victim 2 gave Goltsch a large quantity of sterling silver jewelry to melt in November 2015. The jewelry has an estimated value between $5,000 and $10,000, but the victim has to-date not received payment from Goltsch.

Victim 3 consigned a watch with an estimated value of $1,800 in July 2019. Victim has not received any payment for the watch and has attempted to get the watch back on numerous occasions, but Goltsch has not returned or paid for the watch.

Victim 4 paid Goltsch a deposit of $6,900 for a ring in June 2020. Goltsch did not deliver the ring but the victim was able to reverse the charge on his credit card.

Victim 5 paid Goltsch $34,500 for a watch between March and June 2018. The watch was never delivered by Goltsch, and he has refused to refund the money.

Victim 6 paid Goltsch a total of $98,704 between November 2019 and February 2020 for both gold and silver coins. The victim has not received the coins despite numerous follow-ups with Goltsch.

Victim 7, who is a jewelry dealer, provided diamonds on at least eight occasions to Goltsch to sell between April 2018 and June 2019.  Despite numerous requests for payment or a return of the diamonds, Goltsch failed to pay or make a return.  The total amount of the theft for this victim is $98,500.

Victim 8 in March 2019, victim handed over earrings to Goltsch for repairs. Despite multiple requests made to Goltsch, he has refused to return the items valued between $700 and $1,000.

Victim 9 turned over to Goltsch in June 2019, assorted gold jewelry for melting. To-date, the victim has not received payment for the assorted gold jewelry valued at approximately $3,500.

Victim 10 gave Goltsch assorted jewelry valued at approximately $10,000 on consignment in September 2019. The victim followed up with Goltsch but to-date has not received payment for the assorted jewelry, and he has refused to return the jewelry.

Victim 11 left her watch with Goltsch for repair in April 2019. The victim was charged $535 for the repair in August 2019. The victim has followed up numerous times, but has not received back from Goltsch the watch, valued at approximately $5,000.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Rumson Police Department initially uncovered three victims who have failed to receive any payment from Goltsch or a return of the items involved. After the initial charge of second degree Theft By Failure To Make Required Disposition of Property Received against Goltsch was reported the 11 new victims stepped forward to detail how they had fallen victim to his crimes. Fourteen victims have been identified and more victims could be forthcoming.

If anyone has information regarding the Golden Goose, please contact Detective Michael Acquaviva of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Financial Crimes Unit at 732-431-7160, ext 2233, or Rumson Police Detective Donald Schneider at 732-842-0500.

If convicted of the Theft charge, Goltsch faces a sentence of five to ten years in a New Jersey state prison on each count. 

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Lawrence Nelsen.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

Court Ruling Upholds “Major Discipline Directives” Requiring Release of Police Disciplinary Records

October 17, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Yesterday the court ruled to uphold a directive requiring Law Enforcement Agencies to release disciplinary records. Read about the directive in previous article at link below. A link to the court opinion is also provided.

Read MidJersey.News story from June here: AG Grewal Issues Statewide Order Requiring Law Enforcement Agencies to Identify Officers Who Commit Serious Disciplinary Violations


Statement of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal Regarding Today’s Court Ruling Upholding “Major Discipline Directives” Requiring Release of Police Disciplinary Records:

“Today’s decision marks a new day for police transparency and accountability in New Jersey. As I’ve said all along, the vast majority of law enforcement officers do great work and adhere to the high standards we set for them. So when officers fall short, we need to take those infractions seriously and we need to be candid with the public. That’s why I ordered every single law enforcement agency in New Jersey to start publishing information about their officers who commit especially egregious violations by the end of this year. I am grateful that the Court today rejected the legal challenges brought against our efforts. It is time to stop protecting the few to the detriment of the many, and it is time to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”

City of Trenton and East Trenton Collaborative Win HCDMMJ Award for Joint Redevelopment Efforts

October 17, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor W. Reed Gusciora today announced that the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey (HCDNNJ) awarded the City of Trenton and East Trenton Collaborative (ETC) the “Outstanding Municipal Partner – Redevelopment” award at the HCDMMJ annual conference.

HCDNNJ is comprised of more than 250 non-profit, community development, and private sector organizations that support the creation of economic opportunities for low and moderate-income community residents. ETC is operated by N.J. Community Capital for the purposes of community organizing and development.

As part of the award, HCDNNJ recognized Trenton’s social and economic revitalization efforts, including the redevelopment of multiple city-owned abandoned homes and mixed-use buildings, the rebuilding and reopening of Hetzel Pool, the renovation of the historic East Trenton Library, the repaving of roads, the installation of decorative crosswalks and speed humps, and the clean-up of several major brownfields sites.

“This award reflects the discipline, determination, and dedication of our community and our collaboration,” said Evelyn Hawthorne, a community leader with ETC and UrbanPromise Trenton.

“The City has always valued its partnership with East Trenton Collaborative in planning and implementing neighborhood redevelopment and revitalization efforts,” said Mayor Gusciora. “We look forward to continued improvements to housing and other services that will better serve our residents and transform North Trenton in the coming years.”

“Ever since the East Trenton Library closed down in 2015, I’m proud to have worked tirelessly with ETC to help secure funding to get the site up and running again,” said Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson.

In 2015, ETC updated their “East Trenton Vision Plan,” which key stakeholders initially drafted in 2009. The plan received support from the N.J. Department of Community Affairs under the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program (NRTC), which provides businesses with a 100 percent tax credit for funds provided to nonprofit entities carrying out comprehensive revitalization plans.

“This award demonstrates that residents and the city can work to bring long overdue changes,” said Councilman Jerell Blakely. “I am proud to support these efforts.”

“I have found that working with this Mayor and administration have led to drastic changes in the City of Trenton,” said Faith Ann Pierson, a Trenton resident who serves on three of ETC’s Community Organizing Committees. “From speed limit signs to new crosswalk markings to new asphalt in our alleys, it has been a pleasure to be a part of ETC’s community organizing work with the City of Trenton.”

Department of Public Works Director Wahab Onitiri accepted the award on behalf of the City.

“Director Onitiri has joined me on regular town halls and walking tours of neighborhoods with ETC,” said Mayor Gusciora. “This award is reflective of his leadership and the efforts of our employees in the Department of Public Works to revitalize neighborhoods in the Capital City.”

From January 2018 to October 2020, the Department of Public Works cleaned over 946 public and private properties, cleared 1,038 alleyways, and paved 55 streets, which make up about 15.4 miles of roads throughout the city.

AG Grewal Issues Guidance on Law Enforcement Involvement in Election Activities and Protections Against Unlawful Voter Intimidation

October 17, 2020

View the Guidance

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today issued guidance to New Jersey’s law enforcement leaders to ensure that voters can cast their ballot in the upcoming election safely and without fear of intimidation. The guidance marks the latest step by the Attorney General’s Office to bolster public confidence in New Jersey’s election process.

Today’s guidance—addressed to the state’s police chiefs, sheriffs, and county prosecutors—emphasizes both specific rules regarding law enforcement activity at polling places, as well as the importance of protecting the state’s voters from intimidation and coercion as they exercise the right to vote. The document expresses concern about reports of voter interference in other states, while noting that significant incidents of similar conduct have not been verified in New Jersey.

“As Election Day approaches and voting has begun across the country, we already have begun to hear allegations of voter intimidation in other states,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Today we clarify how law enforcement leaders across the state can best support local and state officials in maintaining the integrity of our voting system, and protecting the right to vote, in accordance with the highest ideals of our democracy.”

In New Jersey, at the county and local levels civilian election officials, not law enforcement officers, are in charge of administering elections, and at the state level, the Division of Elections within the Office of the Secretary of State is entrusted with election-administration responsibilities—not the Department of Law & Public Safety or the Office of the Attorney General.

During an election, responsibility for preserving the peace and maintaining order in polling places lies principally with the district board officials—poll workers—for the polling place. In addition, county superintendents of elections and their staff have the authority under state law to remove from any polling place or other place where an election is being held any person who violates the state’s election laws or in any way unlawfully interferes with the conduct of an election. In rare cases where such action is necessary, these election officials may call upon police officers to assist with the arrest or removal of individuals who refuse to comply with the election laws or the lawful commands of election officials.

Among other things, the Attorney General’s guidance reiterates that existing New Jersey laws limit the role of both on- and off-duty law enforcement officers in elections to activities necessary to maintain public safety, and to the enforcement of laws securing the right to vote and protecting voters from intimidation and harassment. The guidance further notes that federal as well as state laws protect all members of the public from intimidation and coercion, interfering with the right to cast a vote, or tampering, mutilating, or destroying a ballot box, and that individuals engaged in voter intimidation or obstruction also may be in violation of laws that do not pertain specifically to elections.

Official challengers (sometimes called poll watchers) appointed by the parties have a legally defined role in ensuring that elections are conducted fairly and honestly. However, challengers may not challenge a voter directly; only the elections officials may ask the voter questions. Challengers also may not harass or intimidate voters, engage in electioneering, cause disturbances at polling places, or challenge voters based on their race or ethnicity or how they are expected to vote. Individuals who have not been formally appointed as challengers are not permitted to play that role.

The Attorney General is also requesting that each County Prosecutor designate an Assistant Prosecutor to serve as the principal point of contact on matters relating to the upcoming election, and to facilitate effective communication across law enforcement agencies — including with the designated points of contact for election-related matters in the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.

In addition to today’s guidance, the Attorney General’s office is taking a number of steps to protect the voting rights of New Jersey residents:

  • In August, the States of New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii, along with the City of New York and the City and County of San Francisco, filed a lawsuit to protect the U.S. Postal Service’s timely delivery of the mail from unlawful interference by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. On September 27, the court issued a preliminary injunction blocking changes that would hamstring timely mail delivery during the election season and interfere with New Jersey’s primarily vote-by-mail election.
  • The Attorney General’s Office is defending the constitutionality of laws enacted by the Legislature to govern administration of the 2020 general election, so that eligible New Jersey voters can participate in the democratic process despite the ongoing risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 6, a federal district judge issued a decision rejecting a challenge to New Jersey’s laws addressing how vote-by-mail ballots are counted and whether vote-by-mail ballots that are not postmarked or that are mis-postmarked can be counted.
  • As is standard practice, the Attorney General’s Division of Law (DOL) is making preparations to provide legal support to the Secretary of State and County Boards of Elections and Superintendents of Elections before, during, and after Election Day. DOL intends to assign hundreds of Deputy Attorneys General to represent and advise election officials on emergent legal questions that may arise while voting occurs and while votes are being counted.

The Attorney General’s actions come as the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP), led by Director Jared Maples, has issued a new Supplemental Threat Assessment focused on the convergence of COVID-19, nationwide civil unrest, and the 2020 Presidential Election. Among other topics, the Supplemental Threat Assessment projects that domestic extremists will be a high threat heading into 2021 and that nation-state disinformation threats will intensify.  In discussing nation-state threat actors’ expanding disinformation campaigns, the OHSP report notes that “[e]fforts to delegitimize the elections and spread dissent among the electorate can include inventing and circulating conspiracy theories about voter fraud, post office failures, ballot errors, miscounting, and criticism or support of frivolous lawsuits challenging the election.”

The Attorney General’s Guidance is posted at

Residents with concerns about voting and elections are encouraged to call the Division of Elections at its Voting Information & Assistance Line: 877-NJVOTER (877-658-6837). For more information please visit the NJ Division of Elections Voter Information Portal at

Brick And New Brunswick Men Charged With Roles In Drug Trafficking Organization

October 17, 2020

NEWARK, NJ –Two alleged ranking members off the Bloods street gang have been charged with conspiring to distribute fentanyl and heroin in Newark, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Leonard Wade, a/k/a “Clap,” 49, of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Ezra A. Strong, a/k/a “Doonka,” 30, of Brick, New Jersey, are charged in separate complaints with conspiracy to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl and more than 100 grams of heroin. Wade is also charged with possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.

Wade appeared for an initial appearance by videoconference today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer. Strong appeared for an initial appearance by videoconference on Oct. 14, 2020, before Judge Hammer. Both men are currently detained.

According documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Law enforcement officials have seized 831 grams of suspected fentanyl and 612 grams of suspected heroin, as part of an investigation into a drug trafficking organization (DTO) operating in Monmouth and Middlesex counties, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.

The investigation has revealed that Wade, allegedly a ranking member of the Sex Money Murder (SMM) subset of the Bloods street gang, is a leader of the DTO. Strong, allegedly a ranking member of the Fruit Town Brims, also a subset of the Bloods street gang, distributes fentanyl and heroin on behalf of the DTO.

On Oct. 1, 2020, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant of Wade’s residence and recovered a 9mm caliber semi-automatic polymer “privately made” handgun, along with 50 rounds of 9mm ammunition and five rounds of .45 caliber ammunition.

The count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute over 400 grams of fentanyl carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a $10 million fine. The ammunition offense carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Monmouth/Ocean HIDTA Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson, with the assistance of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Gang and Criminal Enterprise Unit, with the investigation leading to the arrests.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren E. Repole of the U.S. Attorney’s Office 4OCDETF/Narcotics Unit.

The charges and allegations in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Defense counsel:
Wade: Rahul Sharma Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark
Strong: Thomas Dunn Esq., Montvale, New Jersey

Reps Smith And Van Drew Introduce Legislation To Increase Social Security Cost Of Living Adjustment

October 17, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC –New Jersey congressmen Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew today introduced legislation to significantly increase the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients after it was announced earlier this week by the Social Security Administration that the COLA effective December 2020 is going to be 1.3 percent.

   The Smith-Van Drew proposal would increase the 2020 COLA to 3 percent in 2020, and no less than 3 percent more in 2021.

   With the average Social Security payment to individuals being $1,514 a month, or $18,168 annually, the announced SSA increase would only provide a $236 COLA for 2021. The Smith-Van Drew bill would increase the average COLA to $545 for both 2020 (retroactively) & 2021, or an estimated $1,090, over two years.

   “COVID-19 has not only disproportionately harmed senior citizens—causing death to many especially in nursing homes—but has devastated them economically as well,” said Smith (NJ-04).

   “HR 8600, the COVID-19 Emergency Social Security Cost of Living Increase Act, is aimed at helping seniors and other Social Security recipients keep up with rising costs they experience in their daily lives, especially in health care,” Smith said. “The COLA announced this week does not reflect the costs seniors cope with every day. It is unfair, and the COVID-19 Emergency Social Security Cost of Living Increase Act will help remedy that unfairness.”

   Rep. Van Drew (NJ-02) said, “The burden on South Jersey seniors from taxes, tolls and Coronavirus has been enormous. Social Security recipients need more assistance to ensure the promise made to them is kept; this legislation is a key part of that commitment and we will fight as hard we can to ensure it is enacted.”

   The legislation would also reform the formula for calculating annual COLA increases by using a senior consumer price index (senior CPI) beginning in 2021. 

   Social Security COLAs are currently based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) which excludes items like taxes, such as state and federal income taxes, and does not accommodate the disproportionate impact of health costs on seniors. Smith’s bill would provide a 3 percent increase retroactively for 2020 to address the COVID-19 impact, as well as at least a 3 percent increase in 2021. It would also permanently address the shortcoming of basing annual COLAs on the standard CPI-W in favor of a “Senior CPI.”

   Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari says a higher COLA is needed by seniors to pay for necessities such as food, shelter, utilities and medications.

   “I am extremely thankful for the immediate response received from Congressman Smith as we struggle with ways to have the annual Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security actually reflect the current state of the economy where prices are going up and financial help is not,” said Vicari, who serves as Chairman to the Office of Senior Services. “In Ocean County, where almost 200,000 senior citizens live, it’s unconscionable to just except an increase of 1.3 percent in the 2021 Social Security benefits,” he said. “Social Security is not a hand-out. Our seniors have paid into this their entire working lives.”