Friday Facts and Figures

Friday Facts and Figures: April 17, 2020

New Jersey is looking to borrow billions to cover COVID-19 budget shortfalls. This crisis justifies, if not demands, such a move.

Published on Apr 17, 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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Positive COVID-19 Cases: 75,317 | Deaths: 3,518
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]


New Jersey is facing a massive budget hole that, without significantly more aid from the federal government to plug it, could lead to devastating cuts to public programs and services that families rely on. To prevent these cuts and the harm they would inflict upon our communities and the broader economy, Governor Murphy has proposed borrowing as much as $9 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve to shore up the state’s finances. Borrowing this much would be unprecedented for the state, but the ongoing COVID-19 crisis justifies, if not demands, such a move. Without sufficient revenue, New Jersey faces serious cash flow challenges that would trickle-down to the local level as school districts, for example, would not know how much state aid to budget for. Borrowing these funds should also help set a strong foundation for the state’s ultimate economic recovery, as New Jersey would be able to maintain a strong social safety net for residents losing their jobs and businesses. [ / Samantha Marcus]


The number of New Jersey residents who lost their jobs continues to climb, as another 141,000 workers filed for unemployment assistance last week. Over the last four weeks, more than 718,000 workers — representing more than 15 percent of the state’s workforce — have filed for unemployment. Nationwide, 22 million people claimed unemployment since mid-March, and economists at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimate the number will continue to climb in the coming weeks. According to EPI’s Heidi Shierholz, these job losses will have a lasting impact on the state economy, as it will take time for workers to return to their jobs or find new ones once businesses open. [ / Samantha Marcus and Dale Shoemaker]


Even before the COVID-19 crisis hit, far too many New Jersey families were living in poverty as many jobs in our economy do not pay enough or provide enough hours to make ends meet. In total, more than 94,700 New Jersey families — including 264,000 children — live in poverty, yet fewer than 11,000 receive direct assistance through the state’s WorkFirst NJ program. According to a new NJPP report by Ray Castro released on Monday, the state can and should reform WorkFirst NJ by expanding eligibility, raising benefit levels, making the program less punitive, and providing better opportunities for education and job training. Thankfully, the state legislature has incorporated many of these policy recommendations in a new bill by Senator Ruiz that was passed in the Senate earlier this week. Efforts like this to strengthen the social safety net are important now more ever given the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. [NJ Spotlight / Colleen O’Dea]


Another step New Jersey can take to help workers and their families during the COVID-19 crisis? Expanding and raising the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In a new op-ed in The Record, NJPP Research Director Nicole Rodriguez outlines the widespread benefits of a stronger EITC, namely that it would boost the take home pay of more than 400,000 New Jersey workers and inject approximately $200 million back into the state economy. Combined with raising WorkFirst NJ benefit levels, this reform could help rebuild the state’s economy from the bottom-up. [ / Nicole Rodriguez]


Governors in 12 states, including New Jersey, have called on the Trump administration to reopen the Affordable Care Act marketplace so uninsured residents can access health coverage. While residents who recently lost their job will be able to purchase coverage through a “Special Enrollment Period,” 648,000 New Jerseyans were already uninsured before COVID-19 hit. As Senator Cory Booker explained to The Star Ledger, “Individuals who do not currently have insurance are rightfully worried that seeking care related to this disease could lead to a mountain of medical bills, enough to make someone go broke.” [ / Jonathan Salant]


Earlier this week, NJPP President Brandon McKoy joined NJTV News to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately harming people of color and those living in poverty. The whole clip is worth watching, if not for this line alone: “[The COVID-19 pandemic is] simply revealing already existing, pernicious levels of inequality — both economic and racial — that exist around the country. And New Jersey is simply no different.” [NJTV News / David Cruz]

Pets of NJPP

Meet NJPP Development Director Becca Jensen Compton’s pup-in-laws, Milo and Shug! As you can see from the picture below, Shug loves to snuggle, which usually takes the form of sitting on Milo. Milo, as Becca explained to me, is often too lazy to move. When they’re not sitting on one another, Milo and Shug enjoy running around, eating things they shouldn’t, and getting into mischief together!

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