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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The number of New Jersey residents who are homeless has surpassed 10,000 for the first time since 2015, according to a new report by Monarch Housing Associates. The study cites a lack of affordable housing, rent increases, and an end to the moratorium on evictions during the pandemic as the main drivers of the rise in homelessness. These numbers not only underscore the severity of the housing crisis but the stark racial disparities in wealth and income: While Black residents represent a mere 12 percent of New Jersey’s total population, they account for 47 percent of those identified as homeless. To be clear, this degree of homelessness is a policy choice, and lawmakers could be doing much more to solve it. [NJ Spotlight News / Genesis Obando]
More than 86,000 previously uninsured children now have high-quality health insurance thanks to New Jersey’s Cover All Kids initiative, including more than 24,000 children who are undocumented or whose residency status is in flux. Signed into law in 2021, Cover All Kids removed barriers to health insurance so no child is uninsured. The law expanded eligibility for NJ FamilyCare (the state’s Medicaid program), improved the enrollment process, and expanded outreach efforts to eligible families. “It’s really profound and hard to understate how big of a change this is,” said Dr. Douglas Bishop of Zufall Health. [NJ Spotlight News / Lilo Stainton]
Now for some not so great health news: Earlier this week, Governor Murphy signed legislation that doubles the time hospitals can involuntarily commit patients experiencing a mental health crisis, from three days to six. The bill quickly advanced through the Legislature during the final weeks of budget season despite opposition from mental health professionals and advocates for civil and disability rights. “For us, it’s always essential that policy is evidence-based, but I think that’s especially true when people’s personal freedom is at risk,” said Ami Kachalia of the ACLU of New Jersey, noting the lack of evidence to support this change. [NJ Monitor / Dana DiFilippo]
Big shoutout to Massachusetts, where the latest state budget will make school lunch free for all K-12 students! How’d they do it? With revenue from their new millionaires’ tax, which will raise $1 billion annually. But wait, there’s more. Revenue from the new tax will also make community college free for students 25 and older, increase the number of child care slots for low-income families, help expand pre-K across the state, and fund improvements to transit infrastructure. Let’s hope New Jersey lawmakers see this and rethink the $1 billion tax cut they want to give to big corporations like Amazon at the end of the calendar year. [NPR / Ayana Archie]
New Jersey’s community solar pilot program is now permanent, following a unanimous vote by the state’s Board of Public Utilities earlier this week. The program funds large solar projects on rooftops and other areas, and then makes that clean energy available to low- and moderate-income households (including renters) who would not be able to install solar panels on their own. More on this below. [NJ Spotlight News / Tom Johnson]
Pets of NJPP
Speaking of community solar — NJPP’s latest TikTok features Alex Ambrose touring a new community solar project in Piscataway. Check it out! [NJPP]
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