From the LRRC Case Files - Week 2


Chaim Berk is a 26-year-old yungerman with two children. His wife works in an office and earns $35k a year while Chaim receives a $320 kollel check every month. He also receives $300 a month from Shemiras Hasedarim and Dirshu. Chaim's parents help out by paying his rent directly to his landlord. They also occasionally pay his credit card bill.

Question: What portion of Chaim's income is counted as far as government program eligibility is concerned?

Answer: When reviewing Chaim's story, two issues must be clarified: Kollel stipends / Shemiras Hasedarim / Dirshu, and parental support.

Kollel checks and stipends:

Most programs count Kollel checks, Shemiras Hasedarim, Dirshu, and Keren Even HaBochen as income in their eligibility requirements. SNAP (also known as Food Stamps), CHS, WIC, and HEAP all count Kollel checks and stipends as income.

The only program that sometimes does not count Kollel checks and stipends is Section 8 (aka HUD). If you are a student enrolled in an institution of higher education and over age 23 with dependent children, some HUD offices will not count any financial assistance received.

NJ FamilyCare at the state level also counts Kollel checks and stipends as income. NJ FamilyCare at the county level currently does not count scholarships as income. You must always report Kollel checks and stipends to NJ FamilyCare and provide a student letter stating how much money you are receiving. Incidentally, kollel checks and stipends that are used for living expenses are almost always considered a taxable fellowship or scholarship and should be recorded on your tax return.

Money received from parents or relatives:

NJ FamilyCare and CHS do not count parental support as income. However, SNAP, WIC and HEAP all count money received from parents as income. Although it is not considered income for NJ FamilyCare, applicants should report any parental support they receive.

Common Mistake: People who receive BMG kollel stipends often miscalculate their monthly income. It is easy to mistakenly assume that since one receives a check twice a month, the monthly calculation is $172 x 2, which is $344 per month. The truth is, however, that BMG gives a check every two weeks, not twice a month. This comes out to 26 checks a year. Therefore, the monthly income amount would be $172 x 2.167, which is $373 per month.

Top Tips from Mrs. Nussbaum - Senior Case Manager

Number of encounters in the past month: 574

Key Skills:

  • In-depth knowledge of NJ FamilyCare, SNAP, CHIP, CHS, Utility Programs, and Paid Work Leaves
  • Developed and maintains close relationships with various governmental agencies, which help clarify rules and advocate for clients
  • Fluent in Spanish

I meet people every day who are entering the workforce by taking entry level jobs. The salaries of these jobs are often just high enough to disqualify them from most programs, but not high enough to compensate for all that lost assistance. By the time they finish crunching the numbers, they may think that they are losing money by taking a job. This can be disheartening.

Every family's situation needs to be evaluated individually, and we recommend discussing your situation with a financial advisor. However, it is important to keep in mind the following. In the beginning it is hard. Most of your paycheck disappears, spent on health insurance bills, additional groceries, and higher rent. However, after a year or two, you will begin to move up the career ladder. Everyone has to start somewhere, and as you gain experience in your field, your work becomes more valuable, giving you access to better employment opportunities as well as allowing you to demand a larger salary from your employer. The first years will be hard, but it is well worth it to grind on and work to build your resume and earning potential.

Also, as your kids get older, your expenses grow astronomically and there are no benefits to assist with tuition, camp and all their needs. It is important to realize that as your children grow up and start aging out of the programs or moving out of your home, your household size starts to shrink. You start losing benefits very quickly. At that point, you may then find yourself in a very difficult position because at that stage in life, your job opportunities may be more limited.'