Friday Facts and Figures: March 20, 2020

Friday Facts and Figures is a brief digital newsletter focusing on data points from NJPP reports, research, and policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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742

There are now 742 known positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, including nine deaths, according to the latest figures released by state health officials on Thursday. The number of cases has grown exponentially over the last week, with 312 new positive tests announced on Thursday alone. Still, this is likely a drastic undercount of the actual spread as testing remains limited. According to Governor Murphy, “These numbers, sooner than later, will go into the many thousands.” [NJ.com / Matt Arco]


15,000

The COVID-19 pandemic is a threat not only to New Jersey’s public health but also its economy. Approximately 15,000 residents across the state filed for unemployment on Monday alone due to the necessary business closings and restrictions enacted by the Murphy administration. NJPP President Brandon McKoy told NJ Spotlight that this record increase in unemployment filings “pales in comparison with what the state should expect to see in the coming weeks.” According to a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, New Jersey could lose 142,000 private-sector jobs by summer. If unemployment rises to 20 percent, as suggested by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, New Jersey would be poised to lose 900,000 jobs. [NJ Spotlight / Jon Hurdle]


How to Apply for Help

If you have lost your job or had your hours cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. The Star-Ledger has compiled a list of options available to you depending on your circumstances. For example, if you cannot work because your child’s school or daycare is closed, you may use your paid sick days. If you cannot work because your health care provider has deemed you high-risk, you may qualify for temporary disability insurance. Click the link for more info. [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]


First Wave

State lawmakers worked around the clock this week to pass the first wave of COVID-19 relief for New Jersey workers, children, and small businesses. The emergency package of bills, introduced Monday and approved by the Legislature on Thursday, includes funding for school districts to help them transition to remote learning, grants to help small businesses meet payroll, requires schools to provide free- and reduced- meals to students who qualify, freezes evictions, and much more. “We came here today because we thought it was extremely important to get a lot of this stuff done, because New Jersey families have to know that we’re not taking off,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said after the Thursday vote. “We’re following through to make sure they’re as safe as they can be.” [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]


$1.25 Billion

NJ Transit, the third-largest commuter rail line in the nation, has asked the federal government for a $1.25 billion bailout due to a dramatic reduction in ridership stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. According to CEO Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit has seen an 88 percent reduction in ridership since Monday as businesses are forced to close and employees are increasingly working from home. NJ Transit may need further relief in the future if the state is unable to provide the agency with its annual subsidy and if funding from the Transportation Trust Fund comes up short. [Politico / Ryan Hutchins]


ICYMI

Earlier this week, NJPP released a list of tax and budget policy do’s and don’ts to help guide state lawmakers in their response to COVID-19. The policy brief recommends that New Jersey expand safety net services and provide direct and immediate relief to the families and small businesses who will be harmed most by the pandemic. It also warns against broad-based tax cuts, such as lowering or suspending the sales tax, as the state will need significant financial resources to adequately respond to COVID-19. [NJPP / Brandon McKoy]


Pets of NJPP

As a much-needed visual palette cleanser, we will feature #PetsOfNJPP in Friday Facts and Figures emails going forward. Meet Scout, Brandon’s co-working pup and unofficial mascot of NJPP. Scout enjoys long walks in the park, even longer naps on the couch, and barking at squirrels.


Have a fact or figure for us? Tweet it to @NJPolicy.