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: 157,815 | Deaths: 11,401
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
More than 100,000 people in the United States have died from the COVID-19 pandemic. As The Washington Post notes, this is as if every person in Edison, New Jersey died over the last four months. Due to existing inequities and our nation’s legacy of systemic racism, those who have passed are disproportionately poor, Black, and Latinx. Due to the infectious nature of the virus, most of these individuals died alone, away from their friends and family. Already, 14 percent of the nation say they know someone who has died from COVID-19. “We’re living in a moment when national sentimentality and displays of compassion are muted because the government doesn’t conceive itself as a first responder,” said Lauren Berlant, a University of Chicago professor. “There is empathy, but it’s been localized — it’s in the states and cities and neighborhoods.” [Washington Post / Marc Fisher]
As more elected officials, of both parties, increase calls for the state to reopen, New Jersey experienced on Thursday its highest number of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in a week: 365. This bucks the trend of decreasing hospitalizations; it also surpassed the daily number of hospital discharges: 287. Governor Murphy called the spike “troubling,” and said the partial reopening of businesses and beaches may explain it. This should serve as a warning that we aren’t out of the woods yet, and while prolonged social distancing may be difficult, it is still necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of spreading the virus to our family, friends, co-workers, and communities. [Patch.com / Tom Davis]
New Jersey is facing a budget deficit of more than $2 billion through the end of the extended fiscal year, according to testimony provided by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS) and the state Treasurer at yesterday’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing. While the competing estimates differed by $486.5 million — OLS predicts slightly higher sales tax revenue collections — they do not paint a pretty picture of the state’s finances. During the committee hearing, Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio stressed that simply reopening businesses will not save the state’s budget. Based on the experiences of other states that have reopened, business does not immediately return to normal as many residents continue to stay at home, fearing they may get sick by going out in public. [NJ 101.5 / Michael Symons]
In a new op-ed in The Star-Ledger, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) calls for bold solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic to support families and small businesses in their greatest time of need. Stressing that families facing uncertain economic conditions need stable state and local budgets, the Assemblyman warns that “austerity policies during a recession have proven to slow recovery over the long term.” We couldn’t agree more. The Assemblyman’s recommendations include: no- or low-interest loans to small businesses; equity investments in struggling New Jersey-based businesses where the state retains a partial minority ownership in the company; borrowing funds from the Federal Reserve to prevent against big cuts to services; an increase in state spending to stimulate the economy; and a public bank so the state can target loans to Main Street businesses and infrastructure projects. [NJ.com / Assemblyman Gary Schaer]
Nearly 1.17 million New Jersey workers have filed for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data from the state Labor Department. While the number of new weekly claims continues to decrease every week — another 34,410 workers filed for UI benefits last week, down from the peak of 214,836 claims made during the first week of April — there is a growing fear that these numbers may increasingly represent permanent job loss. Given how far we are into the shutdown of non-essential businesses, and that the economy is slowly starting reopen, it’s fair to ask what types of businesses are temporarily laying off workers now. [NJ.com / J. Dale Shoemaker]
We are thrilled to announce that the NJPP just got a little bigger and much brighter! Earlier this week, we announced the addition of two new analysts, Dr. Brittany L. Holom and Vineeta Kapahi, to lead our health and immigrants’ rights research, respectively. This coincides with Health Policy Director Ray Castro’s retirement — today is his last day at NJPP. As NJPP President Brandon McKoy said earlier this year when we announced his retirement, “Ray’s career epitomizes public service. Everyone gets into this line of work to improve the lives of people, but few individuals have had more success than Ray.” On behalf of the entire NJPP staff, thank you so much, Ray, for your tack-sharp research and tireless advocacy over the last 14 years. The Garden State is much healthier today thanks to your work. Click the link here to read more about Brittany and Vineeta! [NJPP]
Pets of NJPP
The pets are back! Meet Mason, NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Brittany Holom’s co-working pup. Mason is originally from Oklahoma and, since this is the state where the “wind comes sweeping down the plains,” he hopes that you will forgive him that one of his biggest fears is when the trees start to act like monsters and dance around. He loves to smile, which is convenient, given that he was born with a permanent one! His favorite pastimes are eating Nubz, chasing squirrels, and getting excited about every single person that he sees to the point that they get confused about whether they might know him. He is also a master splooter (if you don’t know what splooting is, I promise it’s safe to search on Google).
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