Friday Facts and Figures: May 15, 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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COVID-19 Cases: 142,704 | Deaths: 9,946
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]


$10 Billion

New Jersey is facing a $10 billion budget shortfall through the end of the next fiscal year, according to preliminary data from the state Treasury. “While there are many moving parts, what is clear is that this decline would be worse than the Great Recession,” said Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio. Without significantly more federal aid, new tax revenue, and/or borrowing, the state will have to make deep cuts to state programs and services to close the gap. As we learned in the wake of the Great Recession, New Jersey cannot cut its way to prosperity. The state must take a balanced response that includes reforming the tax code so wealthy households and big corporations pay their fair share. [NJBIZ / Daniel Munoz]


25 Percent

The nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is hampered by state budget cuts made over the last decade, according to new reporting by NBC News. Extreme cuts to state departments and agencies responsible for processing unemployment insurance, for example, have made it incredibly difficult for states like New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, New York, and Ohio to keep up with the influx of claims. In New Jersey, the state labor department is operating with 25 percent fewer full time staff than before the Great Recession; this is a direct result of spending cuts made during the Christie administration. “Over the last decade, every single New Jersey department was cut to the bone, and it’s been hampering the state’s ability to provide ordinary services and run programs people expect during normal times,” NJPP Research Director Nicole Rodriguez told NBC News. “Now, in a crisis, we are seeing how bad those cuts were.” [NBC News / Olivia Solon and April Glaser]


225,310

Unlike the CARES Act, which carved out immigrant and mixed-status households from COVID-19 relief, the latest federal stimulus proposal would provide benefits to all households that file taxes, regardless of their immigration status. The HEROES Act, unveiled earlier this week by House Democrats, includes another round of $1,200 relief checks to all taxpayers, including those filing with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN); the proposal also includes a retroactive change to the CARES Act, so ITIN filers will receive the initial relief check. More than 225,000 residents in New Jersey would benefit from this bill, including more than 80,000 children. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy / Meg Wiehe and Lisa Chistensen Gee]


Landmark

Yesterday, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed landmark legislation to reduce poverty by reforming the state’s cash assistance program. The reforms in this bill, influenced by policy recommendations made in NJPP’s latest report on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), will help ensure more families living in poverty can make ends meet; it will also provide parents with better opportunities for education and job training. As it stands, only a fraction of New Jersey families living in deep poverty receive basic assistance during their greatest time of need. That is a direct result of punitive state and federal policies enacted over 20 years ago. Thanks to bill sponsor Senator Teresa Ruiz and the advocates in the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ, that will soon change. [NJ Spotlight / Colleen O’Dea]


42

New Jersey prisoners are dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than any other state in the nation. As of Thursday, 42 inmates and 3 people who work in state prisons have passed away due to the coronavirus. More than a month ago, the Murphy administration committed to release some people who are incarcerated, namely non-violent offenders who are over 60 years of age and have a preexisting health condition, but only a small number of these individuals have been released so far. Being incarcerated should not be a death sentence — the state can and must do more to stop the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and jails. [NJ.com / S.P. Sullivan, Blake Nelson, and Joe Atmonavage]


ICYMI

Health Policy Director Ray Castro breaks down the findings of his latest report on reducing poverty in this new video. As Ray explains, TANF is the state’s most important poverty alleviation program, but it is in a state of crisis. By increasing benefits, expanding program eligibility, and providing parents with better education and training opportunities, lawmakers can reduce child poverty in every corner of the state. Click the link to watch! [NJPP / Ray Castro]


Happening Today

Senator Cory Booker will join NJPP President Brandon McKoy today at 4:15 pm for a Facebook Live discussion on the federal government’s response to COVID-19. Click the link to set a reminder, and tune in later today on the NJPP Facebook page. [NJPP / Facebook Live]


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