Friday Facts and Figures is a weekly newsletter with data points, analysis, and commentary on the biggest policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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Vaccine Doses: 14,430,203
Fully Vaccinated People: 6,856,047
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
The People’s Hearing
Since lawmakers are done holding hearings on how to spend the state’s remaining $3 billion in federal pandemic relief funds, we held our own! At The People’s Hearing earlier this week, essential workers, advocates, and policy experts urged state lawmakers to use federal pandemic assistance to provide direct relief and support to low-income residents who were hurt most by the pandemic — not on more tax breaks for profitable businesses. “They may think that they are done listening, but we are not done making noise,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice and moderator of the virtual hearing. [NJ Spotlight News / John Reitmeyer]
So … if New Jersey received $6.2 billion in federal pandemic assistance and has roughly $3 billion left, what happened to the other half? Well, we’re glad you asked! New research by NJPP’s Sheila Reynertson breaks down how state lawmakers have allocated federal funds so far and finds that a good chunk of the funding went toward helping renters, public hospitals, small businesses, child care providers, and others in need. The bad news? While roughly half of the funds have been allocated, less than 5 percent have actually gotten into the hands of the designated recipients. [NJPP / Sheila Reynertson]
Federal relief funds are supposed to be used to advance equity by targeting aid to families and communities hard hit by the pandemic. But without an overarching strategy on how to spend federal assistance — and without opportunities for the public to weigh in — lawmakers are using the funds for lots of different programs, including some that run counter to the equity goals outlined in the American Rescue Plan. One example: Earlier this week, the Murphy administration announced that $4 million of federal funds would go toward hiring additional state police. [NJ 101.5 / Michael Symons]
On Thursday, New Jersey became the latest state to launch a legal cannabis market when 12 dispensaries began selling recreational weed. Lines wrapped around dispensaries as customers waited in line to take part in the historic day. “Today is the start of an entirely new industry for our state,” Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted Thursday morning, “and a historic moment in our work to advance social and economic justice.” [NorthJersey.com / Joe Malinconico, Kristie Cattafi and Mike Davis]
Last night, NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Peter Chen joined NJ 101.5 for a town hall on the future of work to discuss the state’s improving labor market, what it means for workers, and ways state lawmakers can boost wages and make New Jersey affordable for all. Big shout out to NJ 101.5’s Eric Scott for moderating a great conversation! [NJ 101.5]
Pets of NJPP
We have another pet from Erik Cruz-Morales! Meet Frida, a.k.a Scrappy-Doo. She enjoys cuddles, bird watching, mandarins — and bowties, apparently. Woof!
Have a fact or figure for us? Tweet it to @NJPolicy.