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: 555,299 | Deaths: 18,321
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
On Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to address the nation’s immediate health and economic needs. The proposal, titled the American Rescue Plan, is broken into three major areas: $400 billion to expand COVID-19 testing and establish a universal vaccination program; $1 trillion in direct relief to workers and families, including new $1,400 stimulus checks and increased unemployment insurance benefits; and $440 billion in aid to state, local, and tribal governments and small businesses. The plan would also extend the current federal moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until the end of September, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour (tipped workers included!), and expand both the child tax credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). And this is just to address the nation’s immediate needs — the President-elect will unveil in even bigger recovery package in a joint address to Congress next month. [The Washington Post / Erica Werner and Jeff Stein]
State of the State
Earlier this week, Governor Murphy delivered his third annual State of the State address where he highlighted major policies enacted during his first term, reflected on the pandemic, and laid out some priorities for 2021. One major theme of the speech: there is no economic health without public health. To that end, the governor announced that state officials have a plan to vaccinate “every willing New Jersey adult resident.” Another theme of the speech: we cannot cut our way out of the current recession. This is welcome news, as noted by NJPP President Brandon McKoy here, “By rejecting austerity and, instead, investing heavily in public schools, the social safety net, and health care, New Jersey is in a good position to chart a strong and swift pandemic recovery.” For more thoughts from the NJPP team, check out our Rapid Reaction, linked under the ICYMI headline below. [NJ.com / Matt Arco and Brent Johnson]
More than half a million New Jersey residents and their families are still without access to a driver’s license, despite the passage of landmark driver’s license expansion legislation last year. The state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) was supposed to provide a process for undocumented residents to obtain a license by January 1, but the agency missed that deadline. Fortunately, MVC is introducing and voting on amendments to the regulations this morning. Even so, the implementation process and timeline remain unclear. [NJ.com / Sophie Nieto-Munoz]
New Jersey hit a chilling milestone this week, with the COVID-19 death toll surpassing 20,000 residents. This includes more than 18,000 confirmed deaths and more than 2,000 deaths likely caused by the pandemic. COVID-19 was likely the number one cause of death in New Jersey for 2020 (this will not be confirmed until state health data is fully analyzed), as the 19,042 recorded deaths for the year surpassed the annual death toll from both heart disease and cancer. This is a grim reminder to wear a mask, limit your travel, and practice social distancing. [NJ.com / Brent Johnson]
Want to know what your favorite wonks from NJPP thought about Governor Murphy’s State of the State address? Check out this informal Rapid Reaction (gifs included), where we break down our favorite parts of the governor’s speech along with what was missing from it. [NJPP / Louis Di Paolo, Sheila Reynertson, Vineeta Kapahi, Brittany Holom-Trundy, Marleina Ubel]
Pets of NJPP
Meet Memphis, co-working pup of Jesse Burns, the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey! Memphis is a lab/shepherd/pit mix (otherwise known as a handsome boy). He loves to play tug, protects his family by barking non-stop, and carries himself with unearned smugness. Memphis really values quality sleep, as he’s known to huff and storm out of rooms whenever someone dares disturb his slumber. Woof!
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