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: 14,525,555
Fully Vaccinated People: 6,918,289
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s For The Many NJ! On Memorial Day, advocacy and policy groups in the For The Many NJ coalition flew a plane over the Jersey Shore with a message to lawmakers: Don’t forget us in the budget surplus! The message in the sky, from Seaside to Sandy Hook, was paired with an open letter to legislative leaders and Governor Murphy urging them to use this year’s budget surplus to help those most in need. The letter outlined three ways to use the surplus to build an economy that works for everyone: immediate relief for low-paid workers and their families; transformational infrastructure investments; and replenishment of the rainy day fund. Click the link to read more and see a picture of the plane! [NJ.com / Derek Hall]
In a new op-ed, Heather Koball and Seth Hartig of the National Center for Children in Poverty outline the numerous barriers low-income families face when applying for WorkFirst NJ, the state’s premier anti-poverty program. The issue is two-fold. First, the benefit levels in WorkFirst NJ are not nearly enough to survive in the Garden State, even when paired with low-paying jobs and other assistance. Making matters worse, the program is not accessible to most residents who need help due to extremely low caps on assets and income. Fortunately, a new proposal in the Legislature would help lower these barriers by increasing maximum benefits to at least 50 percent of the federal poverty level, and reforming the caps on income and assets so families are no longer punished for working or saving for a rainy day. [NJ Spotlight News / Heather Koball and Seth Hartig]
Remember last fall when Atlantic City casinos told lawmakers they were losing money and would close unless they got a big tax break? Well, we sure do — and so does ProPublica. A new investigative report by ProPublica and The Press of Atlantic City finds that Atlantic City casinos brought in more revenue in 2021 than they did in more than a decade. But, because lawmakers approved the tax break without asking for any evidence the casinos actually needed it, the casinos will pay $55 million less in taxes this year than they otherwise would have. The biggest loser here? The residents of Atlantic City, who will have to make up for that lost revenue. [ProPublica / Alison Burdo]
Advocates joined Rep. Donald Norcross at an Amazon warehouse in Logan Twp. Wednesday to call on OSHA to investigate dangerous work conditions and high worker injury rates. At this particular warehouse, injury rates went up 70 percent between 2020 and 2021, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg, as many injuries go unreported and uninvestigated. “Workers need enforceable standards to protect them,” said NJPP President Nicole Rodriguez. “The best employers already provide this. But Amazon has proven over and over again that it doesn’t prioritize the very workers that bring the company success.” [Thirteen]
Unless state lawmakers act soon to improve New Jersey’s teacher pipeline, there will not be enough qualified candidates to replace teachers leaving the profession, according to a new report by NJPP Special Analyst for Education Policy Mark Weber. For the first time in two decades, New Jersey college students earning teaching degrees fell to 3,511 — a nearly 35 percent drop from ten years ago. Teacher training programs are having a hard time drumming up interest in the profession given that teachers have to take on student debt and deal with pandemic-related stress, the declining value of pensions and benefits, and culture war controversies over what should be taught. “New Jersey’s teacher shortage is a threat to public education and deserves an urgent, all-hands-on-deck response from state lawmakers,” said report author Mark Weber, Ph.D. [NJ.com / Tina Kelley]
When it comes to AAPI activism, New Jersey has some heavy hitters, including NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Peter Chen! Read more about the state’s leading AAPI advocates and what inspires them by clicking the link. [NJ Spotlight News / Taylor Jung]
Rev. Dr. William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign are coming to New Jersey! Join advocates for economic, social, and racial justice at the Poor People’s Campaign Street Rally on June 4 at 11:00 AM in Newark. Click the link to register. [Poor People’s Campaign]
Pets of NJPP
No pet this week (sorry!). If you have a pet you’d like featured, send a hi-resolution picture and some fun facts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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