LAKEWOOD — Carol Walker said her incessant office visits and phone calls eventually got her off an interminable waiting list and into a Section 8 government-funded housing voucher program in 2015.
The 57-year-old also credits "the grace of God" that rental assistance checks began coming in — at just the right time.
"I would’ve been evicted," she said of her life without the federal assistance. "I would have been homeless. I couldn’t have stayed there with the income from social security."
Walker receives disability checks for a spate of ailments, she said, including diabetes and a crushed disc in her back. Like thousands of others in the township, and across the state, she relies on federal aid programs to keep a roof over her head.
In 2016, more than $122 million in federal grant funds — about $1,200 per person — came into Lakewood and local organizations in the township, according to an Asbury Park Press analysis of data compiled by Open the Books
, a project of the nonprofit American Transparency that tracks federal spending.
Still, Lakewood, which is ontrack to become one of the state's most populous municipalities in a few years, receives less per capita funding than similar towns, the data show. Among New Jersey's nine largest cities that receive more than $1,000 per person, Lakewood ranks sixth, according to the data.
Lakewood had a little over 100,000 residents, the latest Census estimates show. Newark, the state's largest city, has 280,000 residents and received $1.5 billion in aid in 2016, or $5,300 per person.
While the $122 million in aid may appear staggering, Walker and many community advocates say the federal dollars aren't keeping pace with the growing population. Much of the growth is within the township's majority Orthodox Jewish population, which advocates and sociologists say is finely tuned at navigating complicated applications needed to receive the federal assistance for which they qualify.