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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Vaccine Doses: 10,430,884
Fully Vaccinated People: 5,276,579
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
How should New Jersey spend $4 billon in federal pandemic relief from the American Rescue Plan? That was the big question in Trenton this week as the Murphy administration hosted virtual hearings on how to use the state’s remaining federal relief funds. According to NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Reynertson, the state can make the most of this opportunity by using the funds to dismantle the racial, gender, and economic inequities laid bare by COVID-19. In practice, that means strengthening the social safety net, providing direct cash assistance to residents who need it most (including immigrant workers and their families), supporting low-paid essential workers with bonus pay, and investing in health care services in underserved areas. [NJPP / Sheila Reynertson]
The 25 states that have taken away all or some of the expanded unemployment insurance benefits have not seen an increase in employment, according to a new study by economist Arindrajit Dube. This pokes a huge hole into the business-lobby talking point that the extra $300 weekly benefit is disincentivizing people from working. “Political and business leaders need to ditch their stale economic views and understand that relief programs and benefits are not a significant disincentive to work and do not hurt our economy,” NJPP President Brandon McKoy told ROI-NJ. [ROI-NJ / Tom Bergeron]
After years of advocacy by immigrants’ rights groups, driver’s license expansion took effect three months ago — but many undocumented immigrants are having trouble obtaining a license from the state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). In addition to limited appointment opportunities due to a backlog of MVC appointments, some potential new drivers have been turned away, denied translators, and asked to provide tax documents that aren’t required. According to Hera Mir of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, it all “feels like discriminatory behavior.” [New Jersey Monitor / Sophie Nieto-Munoz]
The state is set to hire a new health benefits coordinator for NJ FamilyCare — a critical player in administering health programs for residents with low incomes, seniors, and people living with disabilities. One applicant for the position, MAXIMUS, should not be considered for the role given their long history of unsatisfactory performance as well as multiple labor law and wage theft violations. Read this op-ed from NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Brittany Holom-Trundy on all the reasons why MAXIMUS should be disqualified for receiving any state contract, let alone one this important. [NJ Spotlight News / Brittany Holom-Trundy]
Since the Fight for $15 movement began almost nine years ago, 11 states and 45 localities have adopted $15 minimum wage legislation — including New Jersey! As a result, 26 million workers have experienced a boost in pay, totaling an additional $150 billion in income. Now it’s up to Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t budged from $7.25 since July 2009. [NELP / Yannet Lathrop, T. William Lester, and Matthew Wilson]
Last night, NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Peter Chen joined New Jersey 101.5 for a live town hall to discuss the state’s pandemic recovery and how businesses can attract workers. Click the link for a recording of the conversation, where Peter points out that many of the businesses having trouble finding workers are the same ones that pay the least and have the highest risk of COVID-19 exposure. [New Jersey 101.5]
Pets of NJPP
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