You may have read Governor Murphy’s warning that without assistance from the Federal Government, New Jersey will suffer unheard of layoffs of state, county, municipal and education workers.
Although there are no plans in place for these types of layoffs, this was not an idle threat. Income tax, sales tax, fees, and other revenues have plummeted, while the demand for services and cost of addressing the virus, have skyrocketed. The State has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Personal Protective Equipment and testing, and as we know there still isn’t nearly enough equipment or testing.
Why aren’t layoffs an answer?
1. Our public services were already extremely understaffed before this hit. State and county and municipal workplaces have been down more than 20% of staff since 2008. We can’t lose more workers. The Emergency has stopped a great deal of work and left all but emergency and direct care work backlogged. But this work cannot be delayed forever and how will it ever get done if there are tens of thousands of layoffs. Will we never have parks? Who will help people get food stamps? Are we going to reward the heroes of this pandemic by laying them off?
2. Layoffs are a blunt instrument. Many jobs are partially paid for by Federal Funds. If you cut those jobs, there is actually very little in savings generated. Many fully state-funded or county and municipally-funded jobs are filled by essential workers and are direct services for those most in need.
3. Putting more people on unemployment will stress the economy, not relieve it. Loss of income and healthcare benefits will turn the workers who were serving the public and propping up the economy into families in need who are taxing limited public resources.
4. The greatest source of public money goes to public education. Are we going to layoff thousands of teachers? Close schools forever? Eliminate all education other than bare bones? Destroying the education for a generation of children cannot be the answer.
What’s to be done?
Write and call your Member of Congress:
Senator Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Cassidy (R-LA) are sponsoring the State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund, a bill for a $500 billion fund for state and local governments. STATES, COUNTIES AND MUNICIPALITIES need this bill! The bill is supported by both Republican and Democratic governors all over the country. Please send an email to your Member of Congress and tell them to sponsor and support this bill.
Don’t delay! Act now.
CWA New Jersey