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: 193,422 | Deaths: 14,195
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Leading the Way
In the absence of federal leadership on the fiscal crisis brought on by COVID-19, states must lead the way in funding the recovery and preventing economic calamity. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), New Jersey is setting an example other states should follow. ITEP points to Governor Murphy’s budget proposal, including the millionaires’ tax and corporate business tax surcharge, as a sure way to protect and expand investments in education, health care, the social safety net, and more. Taxing the wealthiest individuals is among the best options states have to balance their budgets, ITEP outlines, as high-income taxpayers have fared comparatively well during the pandemic, pay less in taxes than before, and often pay the lowest state and local tax rates. Here’s ITEP’s advice for state lawmakers across the country: “All states should follow New Jersey’s lead and consider equitable revenue-raising solutions in their pandemic responses in the coming months.” [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy / Meg Wiehe and Carl Davis]
With zero public budget hearings scheduled by state lawmakers, For The Many NJ organized one instead! On Thursday, advocates, policy experts, and members of the general public gathered via Zoom for The People’s Budget Hearing, where dozens testified in support of taxes on wealthy individuals and big corporations to balance the state’s budget. The speakers were united against deep spending cuts, with CWA NJ Director Hetty Rosenstein stating, “We urge the Legislature not to fall into knee-jerk austerity.” Advocates also flagged issues with Governor Murphy’s budget proposal — like excluding immigrants from pandemic relief and cutting funding for community colleges — urging state lawmakers to do more to ensure no one is left behind in the state’s recovery. [NJ Spotlight / John Reitmeyer]
On Tuesday, Governor Murphy signed a landmark bill that will allow all residents — regardless of their immigration status — to obtain professional and occupational licenses. This is a huge policy win, as New Jersey requires professional licenses for more occupations than any other state. The law, spearheaded by Make the Road New Jersey, will benefit the state’s 500,000 undocumented residents. As NJPP Policy Analyst Vineeta Kapahi stated in Governor Murphy’s bill signing announcement, “Expanding access to professional licenses will strengthen New Jersey’s workforce and provide economic opportunity to thousands of families across the state. By removing barriers to occupational licenses, more immigrants will be able to pursue the careers for which they have trained, increase their earnings and tax contributions, and help fill critical worker shortages.” [NJ.com / Brent Johnson]
An additional 20,176 New Jersey workers filed unemployment insurance (UI) claims last week. This number, while much lower than the peak of 214,836 new claims during the first week of April, is still much higher than average weekly claims before the pandemic hit. “As long as this pandemic continues to show its power over our economy, the Labor Department will continue to pump vital, family sustaining benefits into the bank accounts of out-of-work New Jerseyans,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. The state Labor Department has applied for FEMA’s grant program to provide jobless workers with an additional $300 in weekly UI benefits, but those payments will not be distributed until at least October. [NJ.com / Sophie Nieto-Munoz]
With the school year about to begin, more than two-thirds of New Jersey’s school districts — 434 — will open with a hybrid in-person and remote schedule. Another 242 districts will open all-remote with students learning at home, while 68 districts will open with all in-person classes. These numbers, from the state Education Department, follow Governor Murphy’s announcement earlier this summer that school districts may open fully remote if they cannot safely open schools in-person. “We all know this will be a school year unlike any other,” said Gov. Murphy at his latest COVID-19 briefing. [NJ.com / Kelly Heyboer]
We are less than a week away from NJPP’s Celebration of Progress! Join us on Zoom this upcoming Thursday, September 10 at 6:00PM. This is a free event and will include New Jersey-themed trivia. Register here! [NJPP / Celebration of Progress]
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