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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COVID-19 Cases: 183,701 | Deaths: 13,996
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Tropical storm Isais slammed New Jersey on Tuesday, leaving 1.4 million residents without power. As of Thursday afternoon, approximately 447,000 people remained in the dark, with many predicted not to have their power restored until the weekend. This is a result of the storm’s high winds, which knocked down thousands of trees — and power lines — across the state. “Every time we have a storm, the power goes out,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The damage and outages that this tropical storm has caused is a clear-cut example as to why we need to modernize and fix our grid.” [NJ.com / Ted Sherman]
With health insurance largely tied to employment, an estimated 124,000 New Jerseyans have lost access to their health care due to job loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. As NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Brittany Holom outlines here, these are residents who are not able to enroll in coverage under Medicaid, a spouse’s coverage, or the individual insurance market. Many more residents would be uninsured if New Jersey had not expanded Medicaid, as evidenced by the spike in NJ FamilyCare enrollment since March. From February to July 2020, total enrollment in NJ FamilyCare increased by 118,622 individuals, a jump of 7 percent. [NJPP / Brittany Holom]
On Wednesday, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard arguments on Governor Murphy’s plan to borrow up to $9.9 billion to help balance the state’s budget. The hearing focused mainly on what constitutes an emergency where the state can borrow without voter approval, and whether there are limits on what the state could pay for with borrowed funds. As multiple judges noted during the hearing, the Constitution allows for the state to bond for “purposes of war, or to repel invasion, or to suppress insurrection or to meet an emergency caused by disaster or act of God.” While these cases normally take years to work their way through the courts, this case was fast-tracked so a ruling can be made before the state’s budget deadline of October 1. If the state is not allowed to borrow, the only options left for the state are severe cuts to state spending or raising significantly more revenue. [NJ Spotlight / Colleen O’Dea]
The COVID-19 crisis has caused not only unprecedented unemployment and revenue loss for states, but also record stock market gains for some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations. A new bill sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, and Kirsten Gillibrand, known as the Make Billionaires Pay Act, would capture some of this wealth and put it toward paying for out-of-pocket health expenses for all residents of the United States for a year. Under the proposal, the federal government would impose a one-time 60 percent tax on wealth gains made by billionaires between March 18, 2020 and January 1, 2021. According to the bill sponsors, the proposal would tax $731 billion in wealth accumulated by 467 billionaires since March 18. [CNBC / Lauren Feiner]
“We need an anti-racist budget that invests in communities of color that have been ignored and harmed for far too long,” writes Brandon McKoy and members of the United Black Agenda in an op-ed in The Star-Ledger. While the state’s legislative leaders have voiced their support for Black Lives Matter, Brandon notes that these statements ring hollow if they are not reflected in the state budget. [NJ.com / Brandon McKoy, Elise Boddie, Richard Smith, et al.]
Save the Date!
This has been a tough year for many of us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to celebrate! Please join the NJPP team and our distinguished honorees for a virtual Celebration of Progress award reception on Thursday, September 6 at 6:00PM. This year’s honorees are: Ray Castro, former Health Policy Director at NJPP; Jeannine LaRue, advocate and lobbyist at KZG; Jun Choi, former NJPP Board Chair; and Bob Greenstein, Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Click the link to register! [NJPP / Celebration of Progress]
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