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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COVID-19 Cases: 834,182 | Deaths: 22,286
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Big news from our neighbors to the north: Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature have agreed to provide pandemic relief to immigrant workers! The $2.1 billion Excluded Workers Fund is expected to benefit approximately 290,000 workers who were excluded from receiving federal stimulus payments. The program creates two levels of aid. Tier 1 provides $15,600 (the equivalent of $300 per week for one year) for eligible undocumented workers who lost their job during the pandemic; workers who do not qualify for Tier 1 will instead receive $3,200, equal to the three rounds of stimulus checks that most Americans received over the last year. As NJPP Policy Analyst Vineeta Kapahi writes here, this law should act as a roadmap for New Jersey, as state lawmakers have yet to provide immigrant workers with pandemic relief. [NJPP / Vineeta Kapahi]
Earlier this week, undocumented workers across New Jersey launched a hunger strike to protest 13 months without federal or state pandemic relief. Protesters are calling on Governor Murphy and state lawmakers to stop leaving immigrant workers behind in the state’s pandemic recovery and, instead, follow the lead of states like New York, New Mexico, Illinois, and California by creating programs to support immigrant families. “This is sending a message — people who have been hungry for over a year are willing to do this and go without food for multiple days to show how much this is a life or death situation without relief,” said Sara Cullinane, Director of Make the Road New Jersey. [NJ.com / Sophie Nieto-Munoz]
As many workers struggle to make ends meet during the pandemic, advocates and federal lawmakers alike are shifting their focus to the ever-increasing CEO-to-worker pay gap. In 2019, the average pay ratio of corporate CEOs and their workers was 320-to-1, up from 61-to-1 in 1989. This report by NBC News highlights how, during the pandemic, large companies changed compensation policies to further boost CEO pay while low-paid essential workers received little or no increase. In one instance, a hospital network CEO saw his total compensation rise 13 percent to $30.4 million while essential workers made less than $15 an hour. To rein in this runaway inequality, Senators Sanders (D-VT), Warren (D-MA), and Markey (D-MA) introduced the “Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act,” which would penalize companies that pay CEOs 50 times more than their average worker. [NBC News / Gretchen Morgenson]
On Tuesday, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal unveiled a new, interactive dashboard detailing every use of force by police officers across the state. The dataset shows that police are more likely to use force on people of color than anyone else; since last year, officers reported using force on Black people 2,434 times, representing more than 44 percent of all force despite Black residents making up less than 20 percent of the state’s population. “We are committed to making New Jersey a national leader on policing reform, and our Use of Force Dashboard is a central piece of that effort,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement. The portal is modeled after NJ Advance Media’s The Force Report, a 2018 report that found stark racial disparities in how police officers use force. [NJ.com / Blake Nelson, S.P. Sullivan, and Nick Devlin]
In this week’s budget hearings, lawmakers questioned Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio on the state’s decision to borrow $4.3 billion last year to balance the budget during the height of the pandemic. The treasurer, as well as Governor Murphy, have defended the decision saying there was no other choice — and they’re right. At the time, no one knew how long the pandemic would last, when vaccines would be developed and deployed, or whether the federal government would step in and provide states with much-needed aid. The only other choice was severe cuts to state programs and the safety net, which would have caused unnecessary hardship for millions while slowing the state’s ultimate recovery. Further, any conversation about borrowing is incomplete without mentioning the state’s total lack of a Rainy Day Fund. As many of you probably know, NJPP has sounded the alarm for years, warning lawmakers that the state would be unprepared for the next recession without sufficient reserves. [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]
Infrastructure week is finally here — and it could include some progressive taxes on the nation’s biggest corporations! President Joe Biden has a new corporate tax plan to help pay for his infrastructure priorities. Reforms include: raising the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent, closing offshore tax loopholes, and reining in corporate tax breaks. Read more here, via ITEP. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy / Steve Wamhoff]
New Jersey can and should provide pandemic relief to immigrant workers — it’s not only the moral thing to do, but smart economic policy. Show support for the immigrant workers fasting for relief by emailing your lawmakers in support of a #Recovery4All via Make the Road New Jersey. [Make the Road New Jersey / Act Now!]
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