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July 2, 2019

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded $8,916,505 to the New Jersey Department of Health to be used to immunize and vaccinate children.

The funding was announced by U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, and Cory Booker.

“Vaccines work. They keep our kids healthy and protected from diseases that once killed and infected thousands,” said Menendez. This “federal funding will allow the state to provide new vaccines to thousands of New Jersey children.”

“The science behind vaccines is clear — they keep people safe and healthy,” said Booker. The federal investment, he added, will “reduce the incidence of terrible and preventable diseases in our communities.”

The CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) funds states and local governments to purchase and distribute vaccines. The money may also be used to support immunization programs, keep tabs on vaccine-preventable diseases, provide public education.

July 1, 2019

The state Assembly has passed a bill that would push back New Jersey high school start times to 8:30 a.m.

The legislation was sponsored by Assemblywomen Mila Jasey (D-Essex), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), and Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) to assess how pushing back the start times could be beneficial to student academic performance. “Teens are operating on too little sleep to the detriment of their physical, social, emotional and ultimately academic well-being,” said Jasey. “With later school start times, students could get a little more sleep giving them just the extra boost they need for success. It’s a strategy that has great potential to work in our largely diverse state and merits our attention.”

The bill was passed by a 72-0-3 vote in the full Assembly on Thursday and will now go to Gov. Phil Murphy. It (A-4865) establishes a four-year pilot program to study the impact of implementing later start times across New Jersey high schools. To participate, school districts would submit an application to the state Commissioner of Education. Five schools would be selected to represent the northern, central and southern regions of the state as well as a combination of urban, suburban and rural areas.

June 28, 2019

Four additional people have been charged in the past three months with filing fraudulent applications for federal relief funds for superstorm Sandy, bringing the total number of people charged to 130 since March 2014.

The 130 were allegedly responsible for diverting nearly $9 million in relief funds, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. The office is working with state and local partners to investigate fraud in Sandy relief programs. In most cases, those charged allegedly filed fraudulent applications for relief funds offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In many cases, they also applied for funds from a Sandy relief program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration or funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

June 27, 2019

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just announced The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey as one of the 2018 winners of the national WasteWise awards. The two-decade-old WasteWise program recognize leadership in sustainability, waste reduction and diversion, and environmental stewardship.

The hospital was named the national Non-Profit Organization Partner of the Year. It diverted more than 830,554 pounds of material from landfills and incinerators and increased its single-stream recycling by 10 tons from 2016 to 2017 by improving access to bins, creating a special sort center, and working on employee education and engagement.

Ravitz Family Markets in New Jersey (Cherry Hill, Marlton, Mount Laurel, and Camden) was also named among the four winners in the New York-New Jersey region. All told, they diverted more than 356,000 tons of waste from landfills.

June 26, 2019

New Jersey’s pedestrian fatality rate is nearly double the national average, with walkers and other non-occupants of vehicles accounting for 183 of the 624 traffic deaths recorded on state roads in 2017.

That grim statistic is the motivation behind an event in Long Beach Township today kicking off a campaign by police departments along the Jersey Shore to raise awareness about pedestrian safety during the busy holiday season.

The stats, the latest from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, make the reasoning behind the Street Smart NJ program readily apparent. A pedestrian dies every other day on New Jersey streets, a rate that ranks the state 13th in the nation.

The news conference is being held at the municipal building starting at 11 a.m. Local, county and state officials are among those expected, as well as Mary D. Ameen, executive director of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.

June 25, 2019

Even though New Jersey’s unemployment rate edged lower last month to 3.8 percent, 8,400 jobs were lost in the private sector. That brought the total number of nonfarm and salary jobs in the state to a seasonally adjusted 4,193,800, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates.

The job losses were in seven of nine major private industry sectors: professional and business services (-3,500), trade, transportation, and utilities (-2,300), education and health services (-1,900), other services (-1,400), manufacturing (-500), leisure and hospitality (-300), and information (-100). Jobs were added in construction (+800) and financial activities (+800). Public sector jobs were also up (+800).

In the year since May 2018, employment in the Garden State was higher by 45,900 jobs, with gains recorded in both the private sector (+42,000) and public sector (+3,900). Since February 2010 (the low point of the last recession), New Jersey’s private sector employers have added 400,700 jobs.

June 24, 2019

When the New Jersey Department of Human Services distributed free packs of the opioid-reversal drug naloxone last Tuesday, it was believed to be the largest such single-day public distribution in the country; more than 16,000 packs were handed out. Each pack contained two doses of naloxone nasal spray.

The free naloxone was made available without individual prescriptions at 174 pharmacies.

Pharmacist Chris Yanoschak of Boyt Drugs in Metuchen said he was “overwhelmed” by the stories people shared about losing loved ones and wanting to be prepared to try to save someone else. The pharmacy distributed 135 boxes on Tuesday. “We had a high demand, about one person every five minutes,” Yanoschak said. “I wasn’t surprised there was a good turnout because there were no questions asked, but it has affected so many more people than I thought. We have lost some young ones in town, so we had a lot of concerned parents too. It was a great way for people to try to help out.”

Pharmacist Chirag Patel of the Walgreens on Route 33 in Hamilton called the day a “unique experience.” The pharmacy distributed 168 boxes. “I was happy to see so many people came out to help others,” Patel said. “Without asking, some shared their stories of their family and friends who died from an opioid overdose. Everyone was very appreciative of having our store participate in this event. I’m proud I was able to help families and caregivers and potentially save someone’s life.”

More than 3,000 New Jerseyans died of drug overdoses in 2018.

June 21, 2019

The Assembly voting session on Thursday hit a snag when three Assemblymen — Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset), Jay Webber (R-Morris) and Joe Howarth (R-Burlington) — engaged in a tense back-and-forth regarding reproductive rights and religious freedom.

Zwicker is co-sponsoring a bill (A-5508) with Assemblywomen Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) and Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic) that would require employers in the state to offer healthcare coverage of contraceptives. The requirement, Zwicker pointed out, is already part of the national Affordable Care Act, but that law is facing a serious legal challenge and is a constant target of President Donald Trump’s administration.

“This bill is completely unnecessary and wrong for the state,” Webber said. “It attacks the fundamental rights of the citizens of this state guaranteed to them by the United States Constitution.” He demanded the sponsor name an employer who would be affected by this legislation.

“What are you trying to get at?" Zwicker asked.

Howarth, a self-proclaimed MAGA Republican, supporting Webber, noted the landmark Supreme Court case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruled some corporations could be exempt from a regulation its owners objected to, based on their religious convictions.

As the debate rose to a boil, Assemblywoman Timberlake took the floor: “I just wanted to point out that I found the debate to be quite interesting as it was between three men about women’s issues,” she said. “This is something that is extremely important, that women have a right to decide about their bodies for themselves.”

Webber was having none of it. “Men have every right to stand up and advocate for the positions they hold on this floor … I don’t care what your genitalia is,” he said. “I think this state is well past that kind of bigotry ... to say that because you’re a man, you don’t have a right to speak on this issue.”

June 20, 2019

Four hospitals in New Jersey have been named among the best children’s hospitals in the country. The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick is listed 34th in the top 50 for neonatology in the 2019-2020 rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick is listed 38th in the top 50 for urology.

Hackensack Meridian Health Sanzari and Hovnanian Children’s Hospitals in Neptune came 44th among the top 50 children’s hospitals for the treatment of pediatric cancer. And the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center is listed 49th among top 50 children’s neurology and neurosurgery hospitals.

U.S. News introduced the Best Children’s Hospitals rankings in 2007 to help families of children with rare or life-threatening illnesses find the best medical care available. The annual rankings cover 10 specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology and lung surgery, and urology. The rankings are derived from clinical data and on an annual survey of pediatric specialists.

June 19, 2019

Organizations across New Jersey expect to serve free summer meals to children and teens at 1,300 locations. The meals will be served at parks, schools, pools, libraries, and other places where children gather. (The meals must meet USDA nutritional guidelines, which call for balanced foods that contain low salt and sugar and whole grains; the New Jersey Department of Agriculture administers the program on the state level.)

New Jersey communities fed more than 103,000 children on an average day in July 2018 through two federal summer meals programs, according to the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign. “This is a great program that helps fill the summer nutrition gap, especially for children and teens who rely on school meals during the academic year,” said Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey. “Not only do these sites provide nutritious meals, many also give kids a chance to engage in fun, healthy activities…”

To find a site, parents and other caregivers can visit the USDA summer meals sitefinder, text “food” to 9779 or call 1-866-3-HUNGRY. It’s best to check with the site before visiting to be sure they serve meals to any child, regardless of whether a child is registered with a particular program.

June 18, 2019

While two-thirds of adult New Jerseyans (67 percent) know that Phil Murphy is the state’s governor, the remaining one-third (33 percent) better not get that question on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire since they couldn’t answer it. That’s according to the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll.

But Gov. Well-Um need not be unduly chagrined by the result; a recent national survey found that a third of all Americans couldn’t name their governor. “So, as much as Governor Murphy may be disappointed, apparently he’s in good company,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of government and director of the FDU Poll.

A cohort of those who thought they could name the governor were a bubble off plumb, with some of them hazarding a bare-bones “Phil” or “Murphy,” and others naming the state’s leader” as “William Murphy” or “Bill Murphy.” And perhaps in the wishful-thinking category were those who said Murphy’s predecessor, Chris Christie, was the governor.

Gov. Philip Dunton Murphy’s approval rating is at 42 percent. “It’s important to note that [he] remains under a 50 percent approval rate mainly because people don’t know him very well at all,” said Jenkins. “On the bright side, this means he has a lot of potential to improve his ratings. On the pessimistic side, it means he’s just not connecting with voters.”

June 17, 2019

A multi-state settlement has been reached that will lead to $168 million in debt relief for more than 18,000 former students of ITT Tech. As part of that, 48 people in New Jersey will get settlements totaling $625,000.

The 48 obtained loans from an education lender known as Student CU Connect CUSO, LLC (CUSO) in order to attend ITT Tech — which declared bankruptcy in 2016 amid investigations by several states and following action by the U.S. Department of Education to restrict its access to federal student aid. As happened elsewhere, the New Jersey students were pressured into obtaining education loans through CUSO, a consortium of credit unions created solely for the purpose of offering loans to finance the tuition of ITT Tech students. Most of the students could not hope to repay the loans; some of them took out multiple loans. The settlement stops any attempt by CUSO to collect on those loans.

Pressure tactics used by ITT included pulling students out of class and threatening to expel them if they did not accept the loan terms. The default rate on the loans was extremely high (projected to exceed 90 percent) due to both the high cost of the loans and the lack of success ITT graduates experienced in landing jobs that paid enough to make repayment feasible.

The defaulted loans continue to affect students’ credit ratings and are typically not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Under the settlement CUSO, under the threat of litigation, has agreed to forego collection of the outstanding loans. CUSO will also cease doing business.

June 14, 2019

In the 12 months since a legal sports betting industry was launched in New Jersey, retail and online sportsbooks have generated nearly $3 billion in bets and nearly $200 million in revenue.

“We knew that sports betting in New Jersey would be successful, but it is fair to say that so far it has exceeded our expectations,” said Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for “$3 billion in bets in 12 months is an impressive milestone by any measure, and in just a year, New Jersey is set up to become the nation’s largest legal sports betting market.”

Indeed, New Jersey appears ready to surpass Nevada in the “monthly handle” for the first time, given the Garden State’s “monthly handle” of $318.9 million in May. “…clearly the state is on its way to becoming the largest legal sports jurisdiction in the country,” Gouker said.

New Jersey sports bettors continue to favor online sports betting, which accounted for $263.6 million, or 82.6 percent, of May’s handle. The state’s retail sportsbooks made up the remainder.

June 13, 2019

It may sound counterintuitive, but as college tuition skyrockets and student loan-debt balloons, perhaps families with low incomes should be looking to send their kids to highly competitive, expensive private schools. In New Jersey, that means Princeton University.

According to a new report, Princeton is the fifth most affordable private school in the country for low-income students. Online tutoring platform HeyTutor analyzed price and financial aid data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and found what students in the $0-$30,000 and the $30,001-$48,000 income brackets would pay out-of-pocket for each school.

Princeton’s posted sticker price of $63,850 a year (for tuition, fees, room and board, etc.) may seem daunting, but the researchers found only about 40 percent of the 5,394 enrolled undergraduate students are paying full price. The average net price for students whose families make less than $30,000 a year comes down to $1,948 per annum. For those whose families make between $30,000 and $48,000 a year, that tuition price is closer to $1,771.

According to the Princeton admissions website, 82 percent of seniors graduated debt-free in 2017-2018.

June 12, 2019

Tax credits are a touchy subject in New Jersey these days, given a damning audit and Gov. Phil Murphy’s desire to reform and rein them in — added to reports about how South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross and companies in Camden associated with him benefited from the credits.

But there’s one set of tax incentives the governor is four-square behind — those in the New Jersey Film and Digital Media Tax Credit Program (which he signed into law last year). There’s a tax credit of 30 percent of qualified film production expenses, with the potential for bonus credits. A film must spend at least 60 percent of its total budget through vendors authorized to do business in the state or spend more than $1 million in qualified expenses here to be eligible for the program.

The total in tax credits allocated in the first round of the program is $6.2 million. The green-lit projects include a biopic about Kathy DiFiore, who overcame domestic violence and homelessness to establish a shelter for women and pregnant teens. There’s also a story about star-crossed lovers in Atlantic City.

Somewhere, someone is feverishly writing a proposal for next year’s round of credits: Scene 1 — Star-crossed governor and South Jersey powerbroker…

June 11, 2019

New Jersey fared well in the annual analysis by Education Week, the national education news site, of how well it funds its public schools and how equitably it does so; the Garden State scored 89.3 out of 100.

Education Week’s “Quality Counts” report carries a lot of weight in the education community, and New Jersey continues to shine in both its funding of schools and the performance of its students. This financial grade amounts to a B+, bettered by only New York and Wyoming among states. The national average was 74.9, or a C.

June 10, 2019

On June 18, 174 pharmacies throughout New Jersey will distribute naloxone, the opioid reversal drug, anonymously and at no cost. No prescription will be needed; nor will an appointment be needed. It’s part of a state government initiative to combat the opioid crisis.

Both community pharmacies and chain pharmacies such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, ShopRite, and CVS are taking part.

One dose per person of naloxone will be distributed on a first come, first-served basis. Naloxone can reverse opioid overdoses by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain. People who obtain naloxone on June 18 will also be given information regarding addiction treatment and recovery.

There were “more than 3,000 overdose deaths in New Jersey last year…” said New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. Last year, first responders in the state administered naloxone more than 16,000 times. The one-day distribution is part of a pilot program approved by the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy.

June 7, 2019

Does it surprise you that most New Jerseyans are happy? Forget the high cost of living, high property taxes, a juddering transit system and all the other daily strains. Apparently, more than 80 percent live contented lives. Sixty percent say they’re “pretty happy” and another 21 percent are in the “very happy” camp. The glad tidings are from a joint Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. On the dour side, 16 percent of respondents describe themselves as “not too happy” and a mere 3 percent admit to being “not happy at all.” The results, say the pollsters, are consistent with national polling.

While men and women in the Garden State are equally content, according to the poll, things like race, education, and income can significantly affect that contentment. White residents (23 percent “very,” 64 percent “pretty”) express greater happiness than either black residents (17 percent “very,” 62 percent “pretty”) or Hispanic residents (21 percent “very,” 50 percent “pretty”). Those in households making under $50,000 annually are about half as likely as those in households making $150,000 or more to say they are “very happy” (14 percent versus 31 percent). Three in 10 residents in the lowest income bracket say they are not happy (26 percent “not too happy,” 4 percent “not at all”), compared to less than one in five making between $50,000 and $100,000 and about one in ten making $100,000 or more.

“Happiness means different things to different people. But when the cost of living keeps going up, it’s not a surprise to see happiness appear elusive to those who are likely struggling the most to afford the basics,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of government at Fairleigh Dickinson University and director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll. “Even if money can’t directly buy happiness, it certainly helps.”

June 6, 2019

This year, a record 59 women (38 Democrats, 21 Republicans) will compete in November’s general election for Assembly seats. In the 2019 election cycle, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, 63 women (41 Democrats, 22 Republicans) filed as primary candidates for state Assembly seats. The New Jersey State Senate does not have elections in this cycle.

Of the 59 women who will be on the ballot in November, 25 (20 Democrats, five Republicans) are incumbents; 27 (12 Democrats, 15 Republicans) are running as challengers; seven (six Democrats, one Republican) are running for open seats.

June 5, 2019

Donald Trump’s presidency has been the inspiration — and agitation — behind many candidates running for office these past three years but new data shows it also has influenced citizens not seeking careers in politics. Nearly one in three New Jersey adults — especially Democrats and women — maintain they are more civically engaged now than before President Trump’s election, according to a new Stockton University poll. The poll categorizes “civically engaged” as doing things like volunteering for a political campaign, donating to a candidate or political cause, attending a protest, or writing a letter to an elected official.

One in four (24 percent) of poll respondents who said they are more active today cited opposition to Trump and the Republican Party as motivating factors, while 5 percent said they have been motivated by support for the president and the GOP.

June 4, 2019

National legislation was introduced last month by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to increase the federal minimum age from 18 to 21 for the purchase or use of tobacco products. So Ballotpedia, the nonpartisan online political encyclopedia, decided it was a good time to look at tobacco laws at the state level. What it found was that New Jersey has a singular history on tobacco regulation and in fact was ahead of the curve on the issue of age restrictions. It passed the first law in the United States restricting the sale of tobacco to those age 16 or older in — wait for it — 1883. Other states followed and by 1920, 46 states had implemented an age limit for tobacco sales.

The minimum age ticked up over time in most states. It finally went to 21 in New Jersey in 2017 when then Gov. Chris Christie signed a law putting that age restriction on the sale of all tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

It seems almost quaint nowadays to worry about the smoking of regular cigarettes by youngsters given the “epidemic” of vaping among teenagers and the big push being made at both federal and state levels to curb it. But plenty of young people are still puffing on old-fashioned smokes — about 5 million middle and high schoolers were tobacco users in 2018, according to federal data.

June 3, 2019

It appears the further the Great Recession recedes in the rear-view mirror, the more credit card debt that Americans have been taking on. Total credit card debt in the U.S. has increased by 29 percent over the past five years, reaching $807 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to Experian, the credit card reporting and marketing company. In the past year alone, it has increased by 6 percent.

The first-quarter data from Experian shows that New Jersey had the second-highest credit card debt among all states (and the District of Columbia) at $6,881. Only Alaskans were deeper in the red on their plastic ($7,726). The others in the top five were Connecticut ($6,876), the District of Columbia ($6,782) and Virginia ($6,773). The states with the lowest credit card debt were Iowa ($4,622), Wisconsin ($4,810), Kentucky ($5,017), South Dakota ($5,023) and Idaho ($5,027).

Just over 60 percent of Americans had a credit card in 2019; the average balance was $6,028 and the average number of credit cards per person was four.

May 31, 2019

You would never know from one of the latest releases to emanate from Gov. Phil Murphy’s press office that things are tense between the governor and Democratic legislative leaders; so tense that some commentators suggest any meaningful progress on the governor’s agenda is questionable, absent some improbable kumbaya. The tone from the governor’s quarters is undaunted.

The press release marks the governor’s 500th day in office and trumpets his accomplishments, not least that he has signed close to 300 bills into law “in partnership with the Legislature,” more than any governor at this point in their first term since Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Moreover, Murphy announced that his administration “has fulfilled or is meaningfully making strides on 47 out of 52” core campaign commitments to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey.

The highlights of the first 500 days listed in the press release are: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; enacting paid sick leave for all workers; requiring equal pay for equal work; investing in NJ TRANSIT; making New Jersey a leader in gun safety; moving New Jersey towards clean energy; expanding pre-K; putting New Jersey on a pathway to fully funding public schools; providing tuition-free community college; and restoring funding to Planned Parenthood.

May 30, 2019

There is an ongoing campaign in New Jersey — and a parallel legislative effort — to allow undocumented immigrants in the state to drive legally. Central to the argument is that, as well as making life easier for undocumented immigrants, it would make the roads safer for everybody.

An economic case for allowing undocumented immigrants to get licenses has also been put forward and New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left leaning think tank, underlines that case in a new report. Written by policy analyst Erika J. Nava, the report suggests that, if implemented, extending driver’s licenses to the undocumented would generate $21 million in the first three years in revenue from permit, title, and license fees. According to the report, “Once fully implemented, new drivers will generate $90 million annually from registration fees, the gas tax, and the sales tax on purchases made at gas stations and motor vehicle and auto parts retailers.”

New Jersey is home to almost half a million undocumented residents (484,000), accounting for 5.4 percent of the state’s total population. Of those, 91.5 percent are of driving age (16 and older).

May 29, 2019

New Jersey has made significant progress in maternity care in the past two years. At the same time, a new report has found that only eight hospitals in the Garden State fully meet three key measures of care — just one in six of the 49 hospitals surveyed in New Jersey.

The 2019 Maternity Care Report by The Leapfrog Group — which examined in-depth how participating hospitals perform on best practices for cesarean sections, early elective delivery, and episiotomy rates — found that in New Jersey the rates of early elective deliveries dropped from 3.11 percent in 2016 to less than one percent in 2018; the rates for episiotomies dropped from 13.08 percent in 2016 to 10.17 in 2018; and cesarean rates ticked down from 28.25 percent in 2016 to 27.84 percent in 2018, while the national rate is 26.1 percent. (The report is based on the results of the 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Survey.)

But only the following New Jersey hospitals were found to fully meet Leapfrog’s maternity-care standards for all three of the key measures. They are: Cooper University Hospital; Inspira Medical Center Elmer; Inspira Medical Center Vineland; Jefferson Washington Township Hospital; RWJ Barnabas Health Monmouth Medical Center; Trinitas Regional Medical Center; University Hospital; and Virtua Voorhees Hospital.

The Leapfrog Group is a national watchdog organization focused on healthcare safety and quality. Its new report also concluded that, nationwide, only 20 percent of hospitals fully meet Leapfrog standards on all three critical maternity measures.

Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, the Regional Leader for Leapfrog, said new laws in New Jersey are expected to prompt more hospitals to achieve better results. One new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy prevents payment for early elective deliveries — births induced prior to 39 weeks for no medical reason — by the state’s Medicaid program and the State Health Benefits Program. Another new law creates a program in Medicaid, known as an Episode of Care, that creates incentives to deliver higher quality and more holistic care for women during and after pregnancy.

May 28, 2019

The number of children in New Jersey who participated in federal summer meals programs on an average day last July was 103,194, a 38 percent increase since July, 2015, a new report has found. At the same time, federal meal reimbursement rose 71 percent, to $12.7 million. Meals were provided at 1,357 sites throughout the state, according to the report.

Despite this progress, the national Food Research & Action Center recommends that states reach 40 percent of low-income children who eat lunch at school, compared to New Jersey's 26 percent participation rate.

Last year, New Jersey passed a law that requires any school district with at least half of its students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals to participate in the Summer Food Service Program. Districts could request a waiver for this summer. Of the 127 districts affected by the mandate, 104 requested waivers. All but four were granted. By 2020, all districts affected by the law must participate.

“We expect to see even greater growth in 2020 as this new law takes hold and expands summer meals to children across New Jersey,” said Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey.

May 24, 2019

Hibernation may be a sound option this weekend because it’s certainly going to be busy on New Jersey’s roads, at its airports, bus and train stations, ship terminals and anywhere people can get mobile. According to the American Automobile Association, (which has been monitoring our Memorial Day movements since the year 2000) just over 1 million New Jerseyans will be kicking off the summer travel season by taking a getaway this weekend.

Just like most Americans, Garden Staters with a yen to get going will do so in their cars: AAA says that 942,395 New Jerseyans (90.2 percent of the state’s travelers this weekend) will travel by automobile; brace yourselves for those turnpike rest stops, people! Another 72,880 (7 percent) will travel by plane; the rest (28,942, or 2.8 percent) will get to where they’re going by train, bus, ship, or — intriguingly — some “other mode” of transport.

The AAA, in collaboration with the transportation analytics company INRIX has taken some of the guesswork out of what’s in store for motorists. Apparently, “travel delays on major roads could be more than three [times] longer than normal during evening commutes.” And the answer to that is? See previous note on hibernation.

May 23, 2019

New Jersey’s decision to expand Medicaid led to a sharp decline in the rate of uninsured women in the 18 to 44 age group between 2013 and 2017. The rate went down 8.1 percent between 2013 (19.7 percent) and 2017 (11.6 percent), according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

That improvement had significant upsides, the report pointed out, not least in reducing rates of maternal death and infant mortality and improving the potential for optimal birth outcomes that can increase the promise of a healthy childhood. It found, in general, that states that expanded Medicaid saw a 50 percent greater reduction in infant mortality, compared to non-expansion states.

New Jersey has a long way to go in improving infant mortality rates. The state has the second largest disparity in the nation in black-white infant mortality rates, with the rate for black infants three times higher than for white infants, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

May 22, 2019

A campaign to enhance summer road safety in New Jersey was launched yesterday; the 101 Days of Summer campaign will run from the forthcoming Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

The period between those two weekends is considered the busiest and most dangerous travel time of the year in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that the higher volume of holiday travelers — including a significant number of drivers who are alcohol-impaired — causes nearly twice the number of automotive deaths during the summer months as during the rest of the year combined.

In that key driving season, fatal crashes, alcohol-related crashes, and young-driver crashes all spike in New Jersey. During that period in 2017, 137 motor vehicle occupants, 48 pedestrians, and five bicyclists died in crashes on New Jersey’s roadways — more than a third of the total lives lost that year.

There will be stepped-up enforcement on roads and highways in the Garden State during the 101 days. In addition to regular and supplemental patrols, police will be operating sobriety checkpoints and “Drunk Driver Mobile Patrols,” participating in the “Click It or Ticket” national seat-belt enforcement campaign, and conducting partnerships and traffic safety details with other law enforcement and traffic safety agencies.

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