Posts

reproductive rights

NJ Governor Murphy delivers remarks on reports of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade 

Roe v Wade, 410 U.S. 113, was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. 

Roe fueled an ongoing abortion debate in the United States about whether or to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, and what the role of moral and religious views in the political sphere should be. 

This debate continued even after the Court’s ruling on January 22, 1973, where the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in favor of “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey) holding that women in the United States had a fundamental right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction and striking down Texas’s abortion ban as unconstitutional.

Roe v Wade, reproductive rights, abortion

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and her lawyer Gloria Allred on the steps of the Supreme Court, 1989. (Photo attribution: Lorie Shaull, on Flickr.)

However, this past Monday, on May 2, 2022, Politico obtained a leaked initial draft majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito suggesting that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document in a statement released a day later, although he noted that “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case

Read about Women of Color Reproductive Rights

In response to this news, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement yesterday, May 3, 2022, regarding the future of reproductive rights in New Jersey.

New Jersey Governor

NJ Governor Phil Murphy. (Photo source: Phil Murphy on Flickr)

“I want to briefly address the reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn the long-standing precedents of both Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey and eliminate the federal protection of a woman’s reproductive freedom.

Quite frankly, while enraging, this news is hardly surprising. This is exactly why we took the step we did earlier this year in enshrining every New Jerseyan’s full reproductive rights into state law. 

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. ( Photographer: Steve Petteway / Public domain)

When I stood with lawmakers in October 2020 to introduce the Reproductive Freedom Act, it was just six days after Donald Trump selected Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. 

 It was as clear then as it is now that this Court, stacked with Trump appointees, could not be trusted to protect women’s reproductive rights.

 If the Court takes this awful step, this decision will have no impact on New Jersey state law or the full right to reproductive freedom under our state law. This remains fully intact, because here in New Jersey, instead of hoping for the best, we prepared ourselves for the worst.

Throughout my governorship, I have fought for a single, basic principle: this must be a decision made between a woman and her doctor, period.

If a right-wing Supreme Court cannot recognize this simple truth, our elected officials in Washington must take matters into their own hands. 

Congress must immediately pass federal legislation protecting the reproductive rights of all Americans, everywhere across this nation. If that means reforming the filibuster, then we need to reform the filibuster.  

We must ensure that every American woman has the freedom that every New Jersey woman has.

And if this Congress won’t protect reproductive freedom, America needs to elect a Congress in November that will.”

As we wait for further developments regarding the state of reproductive rights on the federal level, all eyes are on the Supreme Court.

Excluded NJ Fund, NJ Department of Human Services

Excluded NJ Fund removes COVID impact as eligibility requirement, expanding accessibility 

The Department of Human Services has removed COVID impact as an eligibility requirement for the Excluded NJ Fund and extends the application period to the end of February.

Last month, Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G Baumann spoke to Elisa Neira, Deputy Commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Human Services, about the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund. 

The ENJF program provides a one-time, direct cash benefit to eligible low-income households that were excluded from federal stimulus checks and pandemic-related unemployment assistance. This includes undocumented individuals, residents returning from the justice system and any other individuals otherwise excluded from pandemic-related financial help.

Since our conversation with Elisa, the potential payouts for the Excluded New Jerseyans cash-assistance program have reached the $40 million mark and the program will continue accepting applications through the previously announced February 28, 2022 application deadline. 

Sarah Adelman, Acting Commissioner (Photo source: nj.gov)

Acting Commissioner Adelman announced that Governor Phil Murphy will allocate American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to provide assistance to eligible applicants who apply by the end of the month.

The Governor allocated additional ARP funds last month to restore the program to $40 million so more eligible people could apply. The Department also removed COVID impact as an eligibility requirement following revised federal allowances, and extended the application period to the end of February.

“This fund provides a much needed financial boost to families who were previously excluded from federal assistance,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “By committing this additional funding, we are making sure eligible families can continue to apply through the end of the month, and that those whose applications are approved will receive their benefits.”

“We are grateful for the Governor’s continued support of this program which has already helped thousands of New Jerseyans who were left out of federal pandemic assistance,” said Acting Commissioner Adelman. “Interested individuals should check their eligibility and apply at ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov. For those who need help, free application assistance is available.”

The ENJF application period ends on February 28.  Applicants who submit an application but do not include required documents by the deadline will be able to provide additional documents to demonstrate eligibility after the deadline. The application is available in English and Spanish and online resources in multiple languages can be found on the website.

“The program is now accessible to even more New Jerseyans who were left out of other relief. We want to make sure the community is aware that there is still time to apply for the program.  And if you have already applied, we encourage you to check the status of your application online and follow the next steps to complete your application such as uploading eligibility documents,” said Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira

Watch the webcast: NJ Office of New Americans talks about the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund

The  one-time, direct cash benefit amounts are $2,000 per eligible individual and a maximum of $4,000 per household. Individuals with annual household incomes at or below $55,000, who live in New Jersey, are over 18 years of age and were excluded from federal COVID stimulus payments and pandemic unemployment assistance can apply to the ENJF without demonstrating COVID-related impacts. Proof of COVID impact is no longer required.

Image Source: NJ Office of New Americans.

Various Latinx organizations are applauding these changes that now make the fund accessible to more people, especially immigrant populations who have struggled to receive aid during the pandemic. 

“The Latino Action Network thanks Governor Murphy for simplifying the application for the Excluded New Jerseyans fund and ensuring that more people could take part in this critical program,” said Christian Estevez, President of the Latino Action Network. “By reaching $40 million, we have taken a big first step in addressing a long-standing, previously unmet need in the community. I look forward to the Department of Human Services and Murphy Administration keeping this program open through the end of the month so we can continue helping families and individuals in need. The Latino Action Network stands ready to work with the Governor and the legislature to find ways to continue helping those in need through the end of this month and beyond.”

“LUPE FUND commends Governor Murphy and his administration on allotting additional funds to the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund,” said Iveth Mosquera, LUPE Fund President. “This is an acknowledgment and step forward for all essential workers who have risked their lives during the pandemic, and continue to be the backbone of our communities. This is a true representation of working towards a stronger and fairer New Jersey.” 

“The work of DHS simplifying the application process is commendable and shows the great need for continued relief for immigrant workers. Still, we know that hundreds of thousands of New Jersey families will still need additional aid. We are committed to work alongside the Governor and the legislature to ensure no one in New Jersey is left behind. We cannot fully recover as a state until everyone has recovered,” said a statement from Latina Civic Action. 

For more information on the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund and to apply, visit: ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov

New Jersey Governor

New Jersey Governor Phill Murphy projected winner of second term, first in 44 years to be re-elected

Gov. Phil Murphy , a former executive at Goldman Sachs, became the projected winner of the governor’s race in New Jersey. He is the first Democrat to win reelection in the Garden State in 44 years. The last to do so was Brendan Byrne, in 1977. Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican and former assembly member, has not conceded yet.

For a while, Murphy was ahead in polls by double-digits, and while those numbers dwindled recently, most surveys continued to show Murphy up anywhere from 4 to 11 percentage points. Many were not expecting the close race we were seeing as results continued to come in. 

NJ residents divided over state issues and pandemic response

Throughout the campaign, popular issues of focus were the pandemic, taxation, and the state’s economy. Republican residents have pushed back against Murphy’s increasingly liberal policies, with the governor losing the favor of many residents during the pandemic for his strict mandates. 

As the race continued, the response to COVID-19 became the defining issue. Throughout the pandemic, Gov. Murphy was adamant about stopping the spread of the virus in the state. He was one of the last governors to repeal the mask mandate for the state and among the first to require teachers to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, The New York Times reported. 

With the virus also disrupting the state’s economy and impacting small businesses, The Murphy Administration put programs and resources in place to help businesses recover financially. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, right, watches as Maritza Beniquez, RN, reacts after receiving a vaccination for COVID-19 at University Hospital in Newark, NJ. Beniquez was the first person in New Jersey to receive the vaccination. (Photo credit Kirsten Luce for The New York Times)

Ciattarelli, however, disagreed with Murphy’s pandemic response. Gaining the support of anti-vax voters, Ciattarelli opposed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and mandatory masking in schools. Additionally he believed early lockdown orders were responsible for hurting the state’s small businesses. 

Ciattarelli was able to win over four counties that had previously voted for Murphy: Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester and Somerset.

However, Murphy continued to carry cities and counties with larger urban populations, as his liberal policies throughout his first term worked to benefit urban and minority communities. Additionally, the number of registered Democrats currently outnumber Republicans by more than 1 million in New Jersey, giving Murphy another advantage. 

Still, the divisive issues made this election an unexpectedly close race.

You might be interested: Excluded New Jerseyans Fund to provide pandemic-related financial aid to undocumented individuals

As it became clear that results would not be in last night, both candidates made their speeches to their supporters. 

“We’re gonna have to wait a little while longer than we hoped,” said Murphy, speaking at the Asbury Park Convention Hall, just after midnight. “We’re gonna wait for every vote to be counted. That’s how our democracy works.”

“We’re all sorry that tonight could not yet be the celebration that we wanted it to be,” Murphy continued. “But as I said: When every vote is counted — and every vote will be counted — we hope to have a celebration again.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Jack Ciattarelli (@jack4nj)


In Bridgewater, Ciattarelli addressed his gathered supporters. “I wanted to come out here tonight because I prepared one hell of a victory speech,” he said. “I wanted to come out here tonight because we won. But I’m here to tell you that we’re winning.”

Phil Murphy built his campaign around progressive measures he signed into law, such as an increase to $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick leave along with taxes on the wealthy, access to child care for all, and the multiple subsidies to small businesses that suffered during the Covid-29 pandemic. He also brought on Democratic allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders, to campaign for him.

Excluded New Jerseyans Fund to provide pandemic-related financial aid to undocumented individuals (read in English and Spanish) 

Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman announced that applications for the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund (ENJF) cash assistance program are now open to eligible individuals who want to apply for the financial benefit.

The $40 million ENJF program will provide a one-time, direct cash benefit to eligible households that suffered an economic hardship due to COVID-19 and were excluded from for federal stimulus checks and COVID-19 related unemployment assistance.           

This includes undocumented individuals, residents returning from the justice system, and any other individuals otherwise excluded from pandemic-related financial help.

Households with annual incomes of up to $55,000 with a documented hardship or lost income due to COVID-19 can apply for this assistance. Eligible applicants will receive a benefit of up to $1,000 per eligible individual and a max of $2,000 per household.

Eligible individuals can go to ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov .

Sarah Adelman, Acting Commissioner (Photo source)

Applications will be processed in the order they are received and until funds are exhausted.

The ENJF program is run by the Department’s Office of New Americans (ONA).

“Eligible individuals can now apply for the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund and start the process to get this critical assistance,” Acting Commissioner Adelman said. “If you did not receive federal stimulus checks and pandemic unemployment assistance, you may be eligible. If you were impacted by COVID and struggled to pay for basic needs including housing, you may be eligible. Visit our website, find out if you are eligible and apply today.”

“We are glad we can extend this assistance to individuals who need it,” Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira said. “Eligibility requirements are on the ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov website. If you know you qualify, the sooner you apply the better. We continue to encourage potential applicants to check if they are eligible and apply.” 

New Jersey is the seventh state to take this type of initiative, following California, Colorado, Washington, New York, New Mexico, and Oregon. It is expected that anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people will participate in this program. 

The state of New Jersey is committed to helping all families rebuild post-pandemic, included undocumented individuals and others who did not previously receive pandemic benefits. 

“The Excluded New Jerseyans Fund builds on Governor Murphy’s commitment to create an economy that works for all New Jerseyans. COVID-19 impacted many New Jersey families but not all were able to receive federal COVID assistance and relief. This fund can help make up for that,” said Deputy Commissioner Neira. “We know that many families impacted by COVID-19 continue to need support. We encourage residents who think they may qualify for this one-time cash assistance program to check their eligibility and apply at ExcludedNJFund.NJ.gov

How to Apply

Applicants will have to submit supporting documents demonstrating:

  • Exclusion from federal COVID-19 stimulus checks and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance;
  • Annual household income;
  • Identification and residency; and
  • Financial hardship due to COVID-19 caused by lost income due to reduced hours/lay off, inability to work due to isolation/quarantine, or due to their child’s remote school learning schedule, illness and/or death due to COVID-19, or inability to pay bills due to loss of income.

Applicants will be able to submit their documents online through a document upload service where they can upload PDFs, screenshots, or images of the supporting documents. Applicants are encouraged to upload all or as many of the required documents as this will help their application move through the approval process faster.

While supporting documents such as proof of identity and eligibility will be requested as part of the application process, applicants will not be asked to submit data related to their place of birth, citizenship or immigration status.

Applications for the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund (ENJF) are now open. (Image via Instagram)

For a list of documents that may be used to prove eligibility, visit here.

Individuals will have to confirm their eligibility before they are able to start the application process. Eligibility requirements for the program may be found here.

Free application assistance is available. For a list of community organizations who can help with filling out the application and answer questions, visit here.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Eligible applicants can expect to receive their benefit within 2-3 weeks after being notified that they are eligible.

“This assistance will be available until funds run out so we urge individuals who meet the eligibility requirements for these benefits and who can provide the required documentation to apply soon starting today,” said ONA Director Johanna Calle.

You might be interested: Affordable, quality child care is top priority for NJ working families, says Commissioner Sarah Adelman 

En Español 

La comisionada interina de Servicios Humanos, Sarah Adelman, anunció que las solicitudes para el Fondo para Residentes de New Jersey Excluidos (ENJF, por sus siglas en inglés) ya están abiertas para las personas elegibles que quieran solicitar el beneficio financiero. 

El programa ENJF, dotado con $40 millones de dólares, proporcionará un beneficio directo en efectivo, de una sola vez, a los hogares que reúnan los requisitos necesarios y que hayan sufrido dificultades económicas debido a COVID-19, que hayan sido excluidos de los cheques de estímulo federal y de la ayuda al desempleo relacionada con COVID-19.          

Esto incluye a las personas indocumentadas, a los residentes que regresan del sistema judicial y a cualquier otra persona excluida de la ayuda financiera relacionada con la pandemia.

Los hogares con ingresos anuales de hasta $55.000 con una dificultad documentada o pérdida de ingresos debido a COVID-19 pueden solicitar esta ayuda. Los solicitantes elegibles recibirán un beneficio de hasta $1.000 por individuo elegible y un máximo de $2.000 por hogar. 

Los individuos elegibles pueden ir a la página ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov.

Las solicitudes se procesarán por orden de llegada y hasta que los fondos se agoten.

El programa ENJF es administrado por la Oficina de Nuevos Americanos (ONA, por sus siglas en inglés) del Departamento.

Elisa Neira, Deputy Commissioner (Photo source)

“Las personas elegibles ya pueden solicitar el Fondo para Residentes de New Jersey Excluidos (ENJF, por sus siglas en inglés) y comenzar el proceso para obtener esta asistencia crítica”, dijo la comisionada interina Adelman. “Si usted no recibió los cheques de estímulo federal y la asistencia de desempleo por pandemia, usted puede ser elegible. Si se vio afectado por COVID y tuvo dificultades para pagar las necesidades básicas, incluida la vivienda, usted puede ser elegible. Visite nuestra página web, averigüe si es elegible y solicite hoy mismo”.

“Estamos contentos de poder extender esta asistencia a las personas que lo necesiten”, dijo la Vicecomisionada Elisa Neira. “Los requisitos de elegibilidad están en la página web ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov. Si usted sabe que califica, cuanto antes lo solicite, mejor. Seguimos animando a los posibles solicitantes a que comprueben si son elegibles y presenten su solicitud.”

Nueva Jersey es el séptimo estado en tomar este tipo de iniciativas, después de California, Colorado, Washington, Nueva York, Nuevo México y Oregón. Se espera que entre 20.000 y 40.000 personas participen en este programa.

El estado de Nueva Jersey se compromete a ayudar a todas las familias a reconstruir después de la pandemia, incluidas las personas indocumentadas y otras que no habían recibido previamente los beneficios de la pandemia.

“El Fondo para Residentes de New Jersey Excluidos se basa en el compromiso del gobernador Murphy de crear una economía que funcione para todos los habitantes de Nueva Jersey. El COVID-19 afectó a muchas familias de Nueva Jersey, pero no todas pudieron recibir asistencia y alivio de COVID federal. Este fondo puede ayudar a compensar eso ”, dijo el Comisionado Adjunto Neira. “Sabemos que muchas familias afectadas por COVID-19 continúan necesitando apoyo. Alentamos a los residentes que piensan que pueden calificar para este programa de asistencia en efectivo por única vez a que verifiquen su elegibilidad y presenten una solicitud en ExcludedNJFund.NJ.gov ”.

Cómo Aplicar

Los solicitantes tendrán que presentar documentos justificativos que demuestren:

  •         Exclusión de los cheques federales de estímulo COVID-19 y de la asistencia de desempleo por pandemia;
  •         Ingresos anuales del hogar; 
  •         Identificación y que vive en NJ; y
  •         Dificultades financieras debidas a COVID-19 causadas por la pérdida de ingresos debido a la reducción de horas/descanso, la incapacidad para trabajar debido al aislamiento/cuarentena, o debido al horario de aprendizaje escolar a distancia de sus hijos, la enfermedad y/o la muerte debida a COVID-19, o la incapacidad para pagar las facturas debido a la pérdida de ingresos.

Los solicitantes podrán presentar sus documentos en línea a través de un servicio de carga de documentos en el que podrán cargar archivos PDF, capturas de pantalla o imágenes de los documentos justificativos. Se anima a los solicitantes a que suban todos los documentos requeridos, o los más que puedan, ya que esto ayudará a que su solicitud avance más rápido en el proceso de aprobación.

Aunque se pedirán documentos justificativos, como la prueba de identidad y la elegibilidad, como parte del proceso de solicitud, no se pedirá a los solicitantes que presenten datos relacionados con su lugar de nacimiento, ciudadanía o estatus migratorio. 

Las solicitudes para el Fondo para Residentes de New Jersey Excluidos ya están abiertas. (Imagen vía Instagram)

Para ver una lista de documentos que se pueden utilizar para demostrar la elegibilidad, visite aquí.

Las personas tendrán que confirmar su elegibilidad antes de poder iniciar el proceso de solicitud. Los requisitos de elegibilidad para el programa se pueden encontrar aquí.

Hay asistencia gratuita para la solicitud. Para ver una lista de organizaciones comunitarias que pueden ayudar a completar la solicitud y responder preguntas, visite aquí.

Las solicitudes se revisarán por orden de llegada. El tiempo de espera para recibir los beneficios es de 2 a 3 semanas después de que los solicitantes hayan sido notificados que son elegibles.

“Esta ayuda estará disponible hasta que los fondos se agoten, por lo que recomendamos a las personas que reúnan los requisitos para recibir estos beneficios y que puedan aportar la documentación requerida a que presenten su solicitud comenzando hoy”, dijo la directora de la ONA, Johanna Calle.

child care

Affordable, quality child care is top priority for NJ working families, says Commissioner Sarah Adelman 

During the pandemic, quality child care became an issue for working parents. With many schools and daycares shut down, working parents struggled to find child care for their children. Child care concerns, however, are not a new issue. For working parents, access to quality and affordable child care is something desperately sought after. 

Improving child care across the state of New Jersey has been at the forefront of Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration for several years now. Before the pandemic, the Murphy Administration had already invested nearly $100 million into New Jersey’s child care assistance program – after child care reimbursement rates had remained relatively flat for a decade.

This week, Governor Murphy and Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman announced the state will invest $83 million to increase reimbursement rates for child care providers serving children in the state’s child care assistance program by an average of 25 percent.

Child care is crucial to a strong economy and strong childhood development

The rate increase will go into effect on Nov. 1, and will include the $6.4 million rate increase that would have gone into effect on Jan. 1 to help child care providers implement the January minimum wage increase. 

“We know that accessing affordable, reliable and quality child care is a top priority for New Jersey families, and it’s critical to our state’s economic health,” Acting Commissioner Adelman said. “This new investment is another critical step forward to help families and build a stronger future for our state.”

The rate increases build on the Murphy Administration’s efforts to improve access to affordable child care and support child care providers and workers, both before and during the pandemic. Governor Murphy and Acting Commissioner Adelman recently announced plans to invest more than $700 million to help parents pay for child care, provide bonus pay to child care workers, and distribute grants and increase support for child care providers. This was the latest in a series of investments that included $400 million in other child care initiatives during the pandemic.

“The Murphy Administration continues making significant investments in child care because child care is crucial to a strong economy and strong childhood development,” Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira said. “With this latest investment, we are giving families and child care providers even more vital support.”

You might be interested: Marcela Berland, a pioneer in working from home, combines work and maternity

Elevating the quality of child care in NJ

For low income families who are working, in school, or in training programs, Human Services’ child care assistance programs can help provide resources and financial aid. 

Access to quality child care is something every family should have. According to the state’s Grow NJ Kids site, “Research shows that children who are in quality child care and early learning programs when they are young are better prepared for kindergarten with better reading skills, more math skills and larger vocabularies.” 

Grow NJ Kids is a state-sponsored initiative to raise the quality of child care and early learning throughout New Jersey. Grow NJ Kids gives child care and early learning programs resources to assess and improve their programs. Their mission is to foster ongoing improvement and create a standard way to look at child care and early learning by providing families with an objective rating system. Families can then use this system to assess child care programs and find the best quality program for their family. 

With the latest increase, monthly infant care rates for licensed centers will have increased by nearly 70 percent under the Murphy Administration – from about $724 per month to $1,224 and close to 50 percent on average for all other age groups.


For parents who select a provider with a rating from Grow NJ Kids quality improvement program, that rate jumps even further. For instance, infant care at a Grow NJ Kids program will now be at least $1,326 per month.

“We urge anyone seeking assistance with child care to learn more by visiting childcarenj.gov and contacting your local county Child Care Resource and Referral Agency,” said Assistant Commissioner Natasha Johnson, who directs Human Services’ Division of Family Development, which oversees the child care program. “We are here to support families with information about applying for assistance and finding quality child care.” 

ICE detention contracts banned from New Jersey prisons

New Jersey bans local and private jails from entering into new ICE detention contracts as Gov. Murphy signs bill into law. 

Under the new law, local and private jails in New Jersey are now banned from “entering into, renewing, or extending immigration detention agreements”  with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bill was quietly signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy last Friday, making N.J. the fifth state to limit or ban contracts with ICE. 

“This win has been a long time coming, not just for immigrants in New Jersey but for every family separated by detention. Our state now joins the handful of others who are spearheading the fight to end ICE detention nationwide,” said Amy Torres, executive director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice in a statement.

Advocates push for termination of all ICE detention contracts 

While the new law is a great step forward in ending the inhuman detainment of immigrants, it does not affect current ICE contracts, only future ones. In Bergen and Hudson county, long-term contracts still stand. Additionally, a private jail in Elizabeth recently extended its contract until 2023 while the bill waited to be signed. 

“The people inside are the ones being impacted by the delay,” said Chia-Chia Wang of the American Friends Service Committee. “I can only say it’s a hard lesson learned, but I don’t know if that can fully describe the real hardships people face inside.”

For years, counties such as Bergen, Essex, and Hudson defended the controversial practice of immigrant detention, which allowed the counties to rake in millions by charging ICE as much as $120 daily per detainee. However, recently the Democrats running these counties have shifted in their stance toward the practice, with Essex County announcing in April that it would cut its contracts with ICE and the other counties hinting they would be open to terminating their contracts as well

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (Image source)

Advocates are now pushing for more action, hoping to build momentum following the victory of this bill. Many are concerned about the hardships immigrants will face in the remaining facilities still under contract with ICE, especially as the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spread. Wang has called for all N.J. ICE contracts to be terminated, and other advocates and officials continue to speak out and push back against ICE. 

You might be interested: Latino population powerhouse: 2020 Census data reveals huge diversity growth

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, a main sponsor of the law, chimed in stating “county jails and other entities should be used to house people accused of real crimes, not to arbitrarily hold people who are trying to live their lives and contribute like anyone else.”

“Many of these individuals are immigrants who have lived in New Jersey for years, enriching our communities, and strengthening local economies,” Weinberg added. “This is a common sense bill and a humane one.”

schools reopen

Schools reopen this fall: Is it safe? 

New Jersey announces students will be back for full-time, in-person for the 2021-2022 school year as schools reopen statewide. 

It’s time to say goodbye to virtual learning as schools reopen this fall. According to the official site of the state of New Jersey, schools will be reopening full-time and in-person for the upcoming school year. Schools first closed back in March 2020, when the pandemic began and instruction moved online. Throughout the 2020 – 2021 school year, the majority of NJ schools remained virtual or offered hybrid learning options, with a mix of in-person and virtual students. Now, officials say parents or guardians will not be able to opt children out of in-person instruction for this upcoming school year. 

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

The closing of schools last year led to mixed responses from parents and families. Some welcomed the opportunity to spend more time with their children. Others worried about the quality of their children’s education and wondered if virtual learning would be enough to keep children on track. Many working parents also struggled, juggling homeschooling and working from home. And parents who did not have the luxury to work from home faced the challenge of finding childcare for their children amid the pandemic. 

Now, schools are reopening, and feelings are once again mixed. Some worry that it’s not safe, especially with new, stronger COVID-19 variants spreading quickly across the globe, such as the more contagious Delta variant that has been particularly infectious among the young and unvaccinated–aka the prime population of students. Other parents are glad to see a sense of normalcy return to their children’s lives and routines. 

Regardless of where you stand in the debate, without the option to opt out of in-person learning this year, it is important for NJ parents to familiarize themselves with the new rules, guidelines, and safety precautions that will be in place for students this fall. 

Safety precautions for returning students 

According to NJ.gov, all students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks inside of school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, for the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.  Effective Monday, August 9, 2021, masks are required in the indoor premises of all public, private, and parochial preschool, elementary, and secondary school buildings, with limited exceptions.

Exceptions to the mask requirement include:

  • When doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, such as when the individual is exposed to extreme heat indoors;
  • When the individual has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
  • When a student’s documented medical condition or disability, as reflected in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Educational Plan pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, precludes use of a face covering;
  • When the individual is under two (2) years of age;
  • When an individual is engaged in an activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating and drinking or playing an instrument that would be obstructed by the face covering;
  • When the individual is engaged in high-intensity aerobic or anerobic activity;
  • When a student is participating in high-intensity physical activities during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals; or
  • When wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task.

Additionally, the Department of Education, in partnership with the Department of Health, has produced a health and safety guidance document detailing recommendations designed to provide a healthy and safe environment for students and staff during the 2021-2022 school year.

These strategies are recommendations, not mandatory standards. The absence of one or more of these strategies should not prevent school facilities from opening for full-day, in-person operation.

You might be interested: Reopening schools during Covid-19? Educator and activist Maria Santiago-Valentin weighs in

Vaccinations, social distancing, and more: Will it be enough? 

Alongside the mask mandate, schools will also be enforcing social distancing, promoting vaccinations and testing, and encouraging parents and caregivers to monitor their children for symptoms. 

Vaccinations are currently not required, however strongly encouraged for students and staff who are eligible to be vaccinated. Since most K-12 schools will have a mixed population of fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated individuals at any given time, schools will require the layering of preventive measures to protect individuals who are not fully vaccinated. This will include social distancing within the classroom and an effort to screen and report when children are displaying symptoms. Caregivers are encouraged to actively keep watch of their child’s health and report symptoms to the school. Students who are sick should not attend school until symptoms subside. 

All these precautions are crucial to ensuring the safety of students as they return to full-time, in-person instruction. It is unclear if schools will remain fully open throughout this upcoming school year, however, for now, we can say goodbye to virtual learning as schools reopen for this fall. 

For information on the status of school reopenings in other states, be sure to visit your state’s official website. To check for your state’s mask mandate, see here

NJ waives $100 certification fee for small, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses

NJ waives the $100 filing fee to become certified as a Small-, Minority-, Woman-, and Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise indefinitely.

Women, minorities and veterans face unique challenges when it comes to opening businesses and accessing capital. But it just got a bit easier for them in New Jersey. 

In the past year, small business owners have struggled greatly to keep their businesses open and running in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, small, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses have been hit harder than most. Not only do these groups face greater struggles staying open, but they also face obstacles when it comes to opening their businesses and accessing capital. 

Luckily, for New Jersey business owners, the process just got a little bit easier. This month, starting last week on June 1st, NJ waived the $100 fee to certify as a small, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned business. 

This plan to waive the certification fee was announced last month during National Small Business Month, by State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio who said, “We are kicking off National Small Business Week by opening the door wide for small-, minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses who are looking to do business with the state.”  

“The Treasury is continuously striving to find ways to make doing business with the state easier and more intuitive, especially when it comes to businesses looking to get their foot in the door and pursue contracting opportunities with the state.” 

Businesses can now apply for certification through the Treasury’s online portal. Additionally, NJ business owners may register their business for as many certification categories as they are eligible. 

Certification is an important step for any small business as it provides documentation of a business’ status and allows businesses to participate in select set-aside or goal-based contracting initiatives offered by state agencies. 

“Waiving the fee associated with minority-, women- and veteran-owned business certification removes a monetary barrier to accessing the state’s supply chain that is real for many minority, women, LGBTQ and veteran business owners,” said Chief Diversity Officer Hester Agudosi. 

“As a New Jersey-certified MWBE, both public- and private-sector organizations and firms have access to your profile for considering solicitations for prime and subcontract opportunities.”

Certified businesses are eligible to participate in the Small Business Enterprise Set-Aside Program, which sets a goal of awarding 25% of state contracting and purchase orders to small businesses, and the Disabled Veteran-Owned Set Aside Program, which awards 3% of state contracting and purchase orders to businesses that are owned and operated by service-disabled veterans. 

Additionally, the state’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion is in the process of conducting a statewide disparity study, which may allow for additional set-aside programs to be authorized in the future for small, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses. 

These various programs and waiving the fee to certify are a step in the right direction toward dismantling the barriers and challenges stacked against small, minority-, women-, and veteran business owners.

You might be interested: THRIVE! What to expect from deep-dive workshops at 2021 WEES

2021 WEES

Only 2 days left to register! Don’t miss this must-attend event for all entrepreneurs. Get the tools you need to THRIVE! post-pandemic and take your business to the next level!

New Jersey lifts mask mandate before Memorial Day weekend 

This Memorial Day weekend will be different from the last. Starting today, Friday May 28th, fully-vaccinated people in New Jersey will no longer be required to wear a mask in most indoor settings as mask mandate lifts, Governor Murphy announces. 

This Memorial Day weekend will be different from the last as NJ lifts mask mandate and social distancing rule for fully vaccinated individuals. (Photo credit: freepik )

 New Jersey is one of the last states to lift it’s masking mandate after the CDC announced its updated guidelines for vaccinated individuals earlier this month. During the height of the pandemic, New Jersey reported the highest per-capita death rate in the U.S. This led to some hesitation from state officials when the CDC’s mask mandate was recently lifted. 

“I do not for one minute regret our taking these extra two weeks to ensure that the dramatic decreases we have begun seeing in cases and hospitalizations continue,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said during a briefing in Trenton. 

Now, the state will begin reopening today, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. As of Friday, May 28th, masks will no longer be required indoors or outdoors for fully-vaccinated individuals. However, there are some exceptions. Masks will still be required in: 

  • State offices, such as Motor Vehicle Commission agencies
  • Worksites that are closed to the public, including warehousing and manufacturing facilities
  • Health care settings, correctional facilities and homeless shelters
  • On airplanes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation
  • In transportation hubs such as airports and stations
  • Child care centers and facilities, elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools

Individual businesses also reserve the right to enforce their own policies regarding mask wearing. 

Mask mandate

Mask mandate lifts for fully-vaccinated people, however individual businesses may still enforce their own policies regarding mask-use indoors. (Food photo created by senivpetro )

For the unvaccinated, Governor Murphy strongly encourages people to continue to wear a mask in any indoor public setting and to get vaccinated when possible. 

 


In addition to lifting the mask mandate, New Jersey is lifting the requirement for maintaining six feet of social distance in indoor and outdoor settings. This means businesses, such as restaurants, can now place tables next to each other, and customers will also no longer be required to remain seated while ordering or drinking at bars, restaurants, and clubs. 

Again, businesses and entities overseeing indoor spaces may continue to require face masks for employees, customers and guests and social distancing will continue to be required in settings where masking is required.

You many be interested: How Instagram is helping Latina entrepreneurs survive the pandemic

Lastly, Governor Murphy announced that starting on June 4, all indoor gathering limits will be removed. 

“These steps, when all added together, are the clearest signs of our commitment to carefully and deliberately reopening our state after what has been a truly crushing almost 15 month period,” Governor Murphy said. 

Over the last two months, the state’s daily report of case counts, hospitalizations and deaths have all fallen considerably. These improvements came as vaccination rates rose throughout the state. As of May, about 4.8 million New Jersey residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 4.1 million are now fully vaccinated. These numbers are expected to grow in the coming weeks as we enter the summer.