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: 610,324 | Deaths: 19,172
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Big health care news: New Jersey has extended the open enrollment period for its new health insurance marketplace until May 15 (enroll here). This extension will give uninsured residents more time to get health coverage for 2021. “We’re calling it the COVID-19 special enrollment period so that all of our uninsured individuals can go on and get coverage,” said Marlene Caride, Commissioner of the state Department of Banking and Insurance. And while this is meant to boost health care enrollment during the pandemic, having COVID-19 has no bearing on whether or not uninsured residents can take advantage of the extension. “We’re not asking for proof that you had COVID,” Caride added. [WHYY / Joe Hernandez]
Investment returns for New Jersey’s pension fund totaled nearly 15 percent for the first half of the fiscal year — more than double the assumed rate of 7.3 percent. This is great news for the state’s finances, especially after the pension fund grew a mere 1 percent during the 2020 fiscal year due to the economic fallout from COVID-19. The strong returns over the last few months may also indicate higher than expected personal income tax collections for the state, given the relationship between stock market performance and high-income household earnings. [NJ Spotlight News / John Reitmeyer]
Speaking of the stock market, GameStop stocks have surged this week thanks to members of the Reddit messageboard r/WallStreetBets. Redditors boosted the stock in response to several hedge funds taking short positions on the stock (read: betting on the stock price to fall), resulting in hedge funds losing an estimated $70 billion in the last week. In an effort to protect Wall Street, some stock trading platforms froze purchases of GameStop stock, which has congressional representatives on both sides of the political spectrum calling for an investigation. This week’s events have also renewed calls for stronger wealth taxes, closing carried interest loopholes, and a financial transactions tax. [NBC News / Dareh Gregorian]
7 Times More Likely
The maternal mortality rate for Black women in New Jersey is among the highest in the nation, with Black women being seven times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. To curb this alarming disparity, First Lady Tammy Murphy has unveiled an ambitious plan to reduce the state’s maternal mortality rate by 50 percent over five years. The Nurture NJ campaign aims to eliminate racial disparities by addressing social determinants of health like access to housing, education, and food. [NorthJersey.com / Lindy Washburn]
Earlier this week, six current and former candidates for office added their names to a federal lawsuit that seeks to reform New Jersey’s primary ballot designs and abolish “the line.” As NJPP has previously reported, “the line” gives preference to candidates backed by the local county Democratic or Republican Party, allowing party insiders — not voters — to essentially pick primary election winners. New Jersey is the only state in the nation that organizes its ballots this way. [NJ Spotlight News / Colleen O’Dea]
Earlier this week, the NJPP Board of Trustees got a little bigger and a lot stronger with the addition of Tara Dowdell and Patrick Toussaint. Tara and Patrick bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in government, public relations, and grassroots advocacy to the NJPP team. Welcome aboard! [NJPP]
Today is EITC Awareness Day! The Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides a boost to low-paid workers and their families, is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in U.S. history. It only works, however, if eligible workers claim the credit. Click the link to find out if you qualify — and please help spread the word! [Internal Revenue Service / EITC Assistant]
Pets of NJPP
Say hello to Katie, the co-adventuring pup of Leann Currari and Bill Mellor! Katie loves to travel, enjoys going to the hairdresser, and is always on the prowl for some snacks (me too, Katie). Woof!
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