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: 25,590 | Deaths: 537
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
A record number of New Jersey workers — 206,253 — filed for unemployment benefits last week due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in addition to the 155,815 workers who applied for unemployment in the week ending March 21. Approximately 17 percent of unemployment applications over the last two weeks were from food service workers, as many restaurants have closed or limited their hours of operation. Nationwide, more than 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, which is double the number of workers who filed for benefits two weeks ago. Based on these figures, there will be many workers and families who will be unable to pay their bills because of this crisis. The only responsible path forward is for New Jersey to expand the social safety net and provide critical relief to everyone who needs it. [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]
New Jersey’s local health departments, representing the state’s front line of defense against COVID-19, are having a difficult time responding to the pandemic. Why? These health departments have been underfunded for decades, meaning they do not have the staff or resources to handle the increased workload during a health crisis. This is part of a national trend, as many states have scaled back investments in public health since the Great Recession over a decade ago; since 2008, local health departments across the country lost about 1 in 4 of their workers due to budget cuts. New Jersey’s local health departments are among the lowest-funded in the nation, as the state spends less than $30 per resident on these critical agencies. To put this number in context, this is less than half of what states like New York and Maryland spend. [NorthJersey.com / Ashley Balcerzak and Terrence McDonald]
The economic fallout from COVID-19 will be much worse than anything we’ve experienced in a long time, as skyrocketing unemployment will bring many residents to the brink of financial ruin. To protect the families harmed most by COVID-19 and ensure the state’s economy has a speedy recovery, New Jersey must expand social safety net programs and avoid cutting public services that workers and small businesses rely on. According to a new report by NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Reynertson, this can be accomplished with higher taxes on the wealthiest households in the state. As Sheila told Law360, “If state lawmakers want to avoid brutal cuts to public services and programs that families rely on, especially during times of crisis, they must raise new revenue.” [Law360 / James Nani]
In response to COVID-19, New Jersey will extend both the tax filing deadline and the state’s fiscal year. The new tax deadline, July 15, mirrors the federal extension announced last month. The three-month extension of the fiscal year, an unprecedented move, will push the state’s budget deadline back to September 30. This was a necessary move, according to Governor Murphy and legislative leaders, as the state is still unaware of precisely how much revenue the state will lose from drops in sales, income, and corporate business tax collections. [NJ Spotlight / John Reitmeyer]
Thousands of New Jersey residents were expected to pay rent this past Wednesday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the state’s economy. Last week, Governor Murphy announced a stay on some mortgage payments for the next 90 days, but renters — who account for 35 percent of New Jersey residents — have yet to receive similar relief. “It’s unprecedented. It’s crazy. It’s an emergency situation, and right now tenants are bearing the burden,” said Matt Shapiro, director of the New Jersey Tenants Organization (NJTO). To support renters in these challenging times, the NJTO is calling on the state to reduce rent payments to a percentage of the tenant’s income and waive late fees. [NJ.com / Sophie Nieto-Munoz]
On Thursday, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman joined NJPP President Brandon McKoy for a Facebook Live Discussion on the federal government’s response to COVID-19. In the discussion, the Congresswoman and Brandon discuss the CARES Act, what it’s missing, and ways the federal government can better support families and small businesses hurt by COVID-19. This was a truly great conversation — I definitely recommend watching the recording if you missed it yesterday. [Facebook / New Jersey Policy Perspective]
Pets of NJPP
Meet my co-working cat, Mau! A former Jersey City bodega cat, Mau is a steadfast advocate for wet food for all and universal vet coverage. He enjoys bird watching from the window, having his chin scratched, and waking me up before the morning alarm goes off. Here he is practicing good social distancing inside a fort I made him.
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