A bill advanced by the state Senate Economic Growth Committee on Monday would incentivize businesses to hire New Jerseyans in recovery from substance abuse by providing a $2,000 tax credit per employee.

Sen. Jean Stanfield, R-Lumberton, co-sponsor of the "Recovery Tax Credit Program" measure alongside Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Ocean Twp., said grocery stores, warehouses, and specifically in Atlantic City, casino floors have benefited from such arrangements.

A pilot program of sorts, spearheaded by now-retired Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson in Atlantic and Cape May counties, has been successful according to Stanfield.

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In a letter to Stanfield shared with New Jersey 101.5, Sandson said during his time overseeing Recovery Court, formerly Drug Court, in those two counties from 2016 to 2020, he and his team secured casino industry jobs for numerous people in recovery, many of whom "are still there and have been promoted from entry-level jobs six years later."

"The new employees are getting career coaching, they know what's expected in a workplace, they're trying to prove themselves, they're being drug tested, so they make excellent employees," Stanfield said. "So it's a win-win for everyone."

Both the senator and the former judge are involved with the state Supreme Court Judiciary Opportunities for Building Success, or JOBS, Committee.

Stanfield said there has been a societal shift in the state in recent years to lift up those who are progressing well in recovery and get them back into stable jobs, instead of throwing them into jail to punish them.

"There's a real, viable track record for this, and it does change people's lives," she said. "They're successful, they feel good about themselves, their families are doing much better with their parent at home."

The tax credit offers an obvious benefit to employers too.

Under the legislation, that money would come from a $2 million annual allocation for the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, to be credited against either the corporate business or gross income tax.

"In addition to getting good, qualified employees, to get this tax credit will give them a chance to give it a try," Stanfield said. "Once they do, I think they'll be happy with it."

There is matching legislation in the state Assembly. If passed by the full legislature and signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, the Recovery Tax Credit Program would go into effect for Fiscal Year 2023.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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