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: 195,414 | Deaths: 14,225
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Even with businesses starting to reopen across the state, the economic fallout from COVID-19 is far from over. According to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, more than 1.2 million residents across the state can’t afford regular access to food. This represents a 33 percent increase prior to the pandemic, and serves as a stark reminder that the state and federal government must do more to help families who are struggling financially due to the pandemic. As NJPP Policy Analyst Vineeta Kapahi told The Wall Street Journal, the current economic crisis is shining a spotlight on existing inequities, with Black, Latinx, and low-paid workers making up a disproportionate number of those who are unemployed. [The Wall Street Journal / Joseph De Avila]
On Labor Day, workers from labor unions and immigrants’ rights groups marched in Elizabeth in support of stronger workplace protections and enforcement during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The march coincided with the release of a new NJPP report by Vineeta Kapahi, which found that challenges faced by workers due to the pandemic are compounded by stagnant wages and a lack of strong worker protections. The report found that wages in New Jersey have not kept pace with productivity since the 1970s — especially for low-paid workers. Wages for the state’s lowest paid workers have only increased by 7 percent, or 68 cents per hour, since 1979. Meanwhile, the hourly pay of the state’s highest paid workers has increased by 62 percent, or $22.92, over the same time period. “People are still struggling to feed their families, even with a full-time job, and people are still unsafe in the workplace,” Vineeta told NJTV News. [NJTV News / Brenda Flanagan]
Earlier this year, New Jersey expanded access to driver’s licenses to all residents, regardless of their immigration status or where they were born. The benefits of this policy — safer roads and a stronger economy — now hang in the balance, as newly proposed regulations by the state Motor Vehicle Commission could undermine the impact of the law. The proposal would ask new potential drivers to provide proof of ineligibility for a Social Security Number from the Social Security Administration before they can apply for a standard driver’s license. This is a huge barrier to effective implementation of the new law, as it would force undocumented immigrants seeking a license to provide their personal information to a federal administration that has no problem targeting immigrants for deportation and separating parents from their children. Unless this rule is reconsidered, an estimated 300,000 immigrants could be left out from the new driver’s license expansion law. [NJ.com / Amanda Dominguez]
Some good census-related news for New Jersey: a federal court ruled Thursday against the Trump administration’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from counting in the census. Calling the Trump administration’s memorandum an “unlawful exercise of the authority granted to the President,” U.S. District Court judges in the Southern District of New York blocked federal officials from making any attempt to follow the order. This ruling is critical for protecting the accuracy of the census, which the Trump administration has repeatedly tried to sabotage, as a full count is necessary for the federal government to fairly determine how many representatives each state sends to Congress and how much federal aid each state receives. New Jersey was part of a coalition of states that sued to block the order. [NJ.com / Blake Nelson]
More good news on the Census: New Jersey has surpassed its self-response rate from 2010, with 67.7 percent of state residents filling out the census form mailed to them. This is a remarkable feat for the state and its full-count campaign, especially since the Trump administration shortened the census collection period by a month, but New Jersey still has a long way to go to make sure everyone is counted. “It will be exceedingly difficult to get every person, and particularly the very hard to count populations, counted by Sept. 30 because of the compressed time window,” said Census 2020 New Jersey Coalition coordinator Peter Chen. [NJTV News / Michael Hill]
Thank you to everyone who turned out for last night’s Celebration of Progress virtual reception with keynote speaker Dr. Darrick Hamilton! We laughed, we cried (Ray Castro’s remarks were incredible and included a heartfelt thank you to his wife, Terry), and we were all stumped by the trivia. Seriously, thank you all for making last night a huge success. Although this was a free event, NJPP still needs your support to ensure that we can continue our work and have new policy victories to celebrate in 2021. Click the link to help fund the facts! [NJPP / Fund the Facts]
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