April 20, 2021 – Earlier today, New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) unveiled the Blueprint to Secure a Just Recovery, a bold and comprehensive policy platform meant to guide New Jersey’s pandemic recovery and usher the state into a new era of justice for all. The Blueprint was released in conjunction with the State of Opportunity Index, a new interactive tool that provides an intersectional view on key factors contributing to health and well-being in the Garden State.
“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey is at a crossroads,” said Marcia Marley, NJPP Board Chair and President of BlueWave NJ. “The direction we take will determine whether our economy moves towards a fairer and more equitable future where everyone can thrive. This Blueprint represents bold policies that, if implemented, will reduce poverty and inequalities in health and education, while improving economic and environmental justice, as well as protecting our democracy, just to name a few of the issue areas covered in the landmark publication.”
The Blueprint includes 65 policy recommendations over nine policy areas — tax and budget, economic security, health, labor, education, public safety, housing, climate and environment, and democracy — with the goals of eliminating poverty, closing the racial wealth gap, and pursuing restorative justice.
“New Jersey is at a transitional moment — a moment of sterling opportunity to build a better future for all residents,” said Brandon McKoy, President of NJPP. “We simply cannot go back to the economy we had prior to the pandemic. We must address the disparities that we’ve known about for so long by centering marginalized communities of color and low-paid workers and their families in the state’s pandemic recovery. This Blueprint is meant to break through the short-sighted thinking that has dominated New Jersey politics for far too long and, instead, focus on bold and comprehensive solutions to more meaningfully address community needs.”
To address health disparities exposed by COVID-19, the Blueprint calls for expanding access to care so all residents can lead healthy lives. Recommendations include universal coverage for all kids, providing affordable health insurance options for undocumented immigrants, and expanding eligibility for Medicaid.
“For years, New Jersey has led the way for other states, taking significant steps in expanding access to affordable health care,” said Heather Howard, NJPP Trustee, lecturer at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and former Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. “But, tragically, the pandemic has magnified and preyed on the persistent, existing inequities. That is why this Blueprint is so important. It lays out ways we can do better — for all New Jerseyans. Because, though we are a leader, the state can still do more to raise the bar. Taken together, these steps will put us on a path that provides health opportunities for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, documentation status, or neighborhood.”
Recognizing that simply returning to the economy we had before the pandemic is not an option, the Blueprint includes bold policies that ensure all New Jerseyans can thrive. Recommendations include closing the racial wealth gap with reparations, providing baby bonds to build wealth for those who wouldn’t otherwise have it, and establishing a state child tax credit to further reduce child poverty.
“This Blueprint is about what we know, and how we apply what we know to yield results. And what we know is that nothing has ever changed without policy interventions. And not just interventions, but equitable policy interventions,” said Tara Dowdell, NJPP Trustee and President of the Tara Dowdell Group. “We know that there is a stubborn wage gap in this state. We know that Black and brown New Jerseyans make less money for the same job with the same responsibilities. The question is: what are we going to do with this information. This Blueprint offers a solution. It is rooted in evidence-based solutions. So now, as we reopen, we have an opportunity to center equity in our institutions and economy. This Blueprint shows us what works.”
Drafted in close collaboration with dozens of partners, the Blueprint encompasses NJPP’s core issues as well as new priorities — public safety, democracy, housing, and climate — which NJPP identified as critical to advancing racial justice.
To complement the Blueprint, NJPP also released the State of Opportunity Index, a user-friendly, interactive tool to measure how residents are doing in their communities. With the most recent data available, the Index highlights the depth of disparities that exist across the state between counties. The index will serve as an educational tool for the public and inform advocates and legislators alike on the distinct and intersectional areas of health and well-being in the Garden State — and where targeted policy solutions are necessary.
“Despite decades of progress in health access, job opportunities, and earnings, many residents across the state still face persistent barriers to making ends meet,” said Nicole Rodriguez, Research Director at NJPP. “By having a clearer idea of the challenges that we face and where they manifest, we can better plan our efforts for policy change. Behind each indicator in the State of Opportunity Index is an opportunity for New Jersey to do better for its residents.”
NJPP created the Blueprint and Index so advocates, the press, and the public alike can learn more about how their communities are faring and what lawmakers can do to make New Jersey a better place for all residents to live and grow.
“We hope you will find the ideas and policies in this document worthwhile and inspiring,” McKoy added. “Only together can we find our way to freedom.”
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