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Policy Updates from the Rutgers Social Work Policy Network
February 23, 2021

We are grateful to embrace Black History Month and the fact that Black Lives Matter. Every Month, Day & Hour of the Year.

The Social Work Policy Network sends weekly resources regarding national & local legislature, events, as well as media. Today, we focus on NJ legalizing recreational cannabis, immigration reform, child allowances and more!

New Jersey just legalized cannabis
On Monday, Governor Murphy "...signed multiple marijuana-related bills to legalize use for adults 21 and older, remove penalties for small amounts of the drug, and create a regulated market...[This bill will] expand legalization to recreational and other nonmedical uses." Learn more about legal cannabis in NJ here.

Murphy signs N.J. legal weed bills, ending 3-year saga, " took more than a marijuana-friendly governor to make reform a reality. There were years of failed legislative attempts, a ballot question that garnered more than 2.7 million votes in favor and three months of negotiations on tax revenue, licensing rules and the ultimate hangup that nearly killed the effort: penalties for those under 21 caught with marijuana." Learn more about this bill here.
Read more on the legalization of cannabis & the war on drugs.

Let’s study ‘harmful and painful legacy’ of slavery and look at reparations, Booker says, "Should the U.S. compensate Black Americans for generations of slavery and discrimination? That was the subject of a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing Wednesday of a bill introduced by Democrats U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas to form a commission to investigate the history of slavery and the ongoing discrimination against Blacks."

For The Many NJ Calls on Gov. Murphy and Lawmakers to Fund the Recovery in the FY 2022 Budget, NJPP: "...a diverse group of advocates and community leaders from across the state called on Governor Murphy and legislative leaders to pass a budget that fully funds New Jersey’s pandemic recovery. Members of the For The Many NJ coalition convened virtually on Zoom and Facebook Live to stress the need for bold public investments in public health, education, housing, and more in response to the economic downturn brought on by COVID-19."

Thousands of N.J. residents have unemployment delayed by answering just one question wrong, state Labor chief says, "Tens of thousands of unemployment claimants are answering a federally mandated question wrong every week, holding up their own claim, the Labor Department said."

NJ to spend $100M on green energy, environmental justice, NJ Spotlight: 
"Gov. Murphy vowed to spend $100 million on clean transportation projects, much of which would be targeted to reducing unhealthy air quality in urban areas with communities that are already overburdened with pollution problems."

Transportation advocates push for a bus passenger bill of rights, NJ Spotlight: "With tens of thousands of essential workers continuing to travel on NJ Transit, there’s a growing push for Gov. Phil Murphy to carve out dedicated funding for the state’s public transportation system, focusing on disadvantaged communities where buses bring noise and air pollution that cause disproportionate health risks.

N.J. residents facing foreclosure would get help under bill now on Murphy’s desk, "The measure, S3244, would create the New Jersey Foreclosure Prevention Act, which allows the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to purchase properties facing foreclosures to help residents in retaining control of their homes. It would also allow the agency to work with homeowners for a more affordable mortgage."

Fine Print: NJ request to waive student testing, NJ Spotlight:
"Acting education commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan, letter to U.S. Department of Education...The letter is to be the formal request by the Murphy administration to skip fthe federal department’s required student testing in language arts and math for a second year. The draft also asks for a waiver from the state’s testing of students with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency. The draft is open to public comment until March 5."

Murphy administration to increase funds for schools, NJ Spotlight: "A week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some of the clearest guidelines to date for safely reopening schools, Gov. Phil Murphy said he will set aside about $1 billion in COVID-19 relief money to help school districts across the state. The bulk of it will go toward a plan to support students who have struggled with learning and mental health issues during the pandemic."

Jersey City to consider extending moratorium on rent increases until end of state health emergency, "The City Council will introduce an amending ordinance on Wednesday that will continue the rent hike freeze for the fourth and final time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Owner-occupied homes with two to four units are excluded from the proposed legislation."

Biden plan to overhaul U.S. immigration laws and undo Trump policies introduced by N.J.’s Menendez, "With the backing of the White House, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez on Thursday introduced legislation that would provide a path to citizenship [through the U.S. Citzenship Act] for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants, offering expedited status for those brought to the U.S. as children, for farmworkers, and those with temporary protected status because of upheaval in their homelands."

Biden’s Immigration Plan Would Offer Path to Citizenship For Millions, NY Times: "The proposal, unveiled by Democrats on Capitol Hill, offers an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, eliminates restrictions on family-based immigration and expands worker visas."

8 first-term House members explain how they plan to prioritize racial justice, Vox: "Just one year ago, America was not ready to consider the possibilities of bold racial justice reform. Discussion of reparations, a system that would redress the country’s oldest sin of slavery, or universal basic income, a guarantee of economic security, were just talking points on the campaign trail for candidates vying to be president.

Now is the time to revolutionize policing, Vox: "In January alone, 70 people were killed by police, according to the Washington Post, a number that February appears on track to match. And Black people continue to be killed at a disproportionate rate: Of the police victims for whom race is known, at least 14 of those killed in January were Black — or at least 20 percent, although Black Americans make up only 13 percent of the population. According to Mapping Police Violence, police killed 233 Black Americans in 2020, slightly down from the 277 Black Americans killed in 2019.

How school funding can help repair the legacy of segregation, Vox:
"While affluent school districts can afford to offer students everything from the latest technology to a range of advanced classes, schools in lower-income areas often struggle to provide the basic necessities. That gap has become a chasm during the Covid-19 pandemic, when something like a cafeteria with no windows becomes a very real health hazard."

Biden Drags His Feet on Canceling Student Debt Despite Campaign Pledge, Democracy Now!: "Students, campaigners and top Democrats have been pushing President Joe Biden to use executive authority to cancel at least $50,000 in student loan debt per person. Student loan debt in the U.S. stands at $1.7 trillion, with some 45 million people owing money." Biden holds the legal authority to cancel student debt. So, why hasn't he?

States Can Choose Better Path for Higher Education Funding in COVID-19 Recession, CBPP: "People who complete a bachelor’s degree also have higher earnings, lower rates of unemployment and underemployment, lower rates of incarceration, and higher rates of civic engagement. State funding and policies for higher education must ensure that all people and communities share in the benefits that higher education provides, including groups that have historically faced and currently face barriers to accessing and completing higher education, such as people with low incomes and Black, Latinx, and Native American people."

Fossil Fuel Shock Doctrine: Naomi Klein on Deadly Deregulation & Why Texas Needs the Green New Deal, Democracy Now: "About 8 million Texans remain under orders to boil water, and 30,000 homes still have no power. Around 70 deaths have now been linked to the winter storms, including at least 12 people who died inside their homes after losing heat. Republican lawmakers in Texas are facing increasing criticism for their handling of the crisis, their decades-long push to deregulate the state’s energy system, and their unfounded attacks on renewable energy and the Green New Deal."

Impact of Policy Options for Reducing Hospital Prices Paid by Private Health Plans, RAND: "In response to high health care spending and concerns about affordability, policymakers have proposed a variety of reforms to increase health insurance coverage and modify how providers are paid. In this report, the authors analyze the spending impacts of policy options to reduce hospital prices paid by private health plans. The authors estimate the potential impact on hospital prices and spending for a range of policy designs..."

How poor communication exacerbates health inequities – and what to do about it, Brookings: "Many of the more tangible and measurable factors driving inequity could be addressed through a heightened national political commitment to achieving a better balance in health-related budgetary and organizational reforms. But some of the factors are less easy to see and measure – yet are perhaps just as challenging. Distrust and poor communication related to racial and cultural differences pervade the health system and frustrate many efforts to reach the goal of good and equitable care for all in America."

The Opioid Crisis and State & Federal Policies: It’s More Complicated Than You Think, RAND: "...Bradley Stein presents an exploration of recent federal and state policies related to the opioid crisis and the sometimes unanticipated consequences." Change up your reading rhytm with this video.

Answers to Your Current Coronavirus Questions, NY Times: "When the coronavirus pandemic began, we were figuring out how to stay safe, how to stay home and how this was going to affect our lives in the long run. Now that we have better answers to many of these questions, new ones have surfaced." 

Vaccine equity - ‘Vulnerable populations plan’ a priority for state health leaders, NJ Spotlight: "But creating a local vaccine clinic is not enough to ensure that Black and brown communities have sufficient access to immunization, according to public health leaders. While people of color have suffered outsized impacts of COVID-19 in New Jersey and nationwide, they have made up a small percentage of those vaccinated — and more needs to be done to ensure the lifesaving serum is distributed equitably."

The Child Benefit Plan in the COVID Relief Bill Could Be a 'Foundational' Piece of the American Safety Net, Esquire: 
"In a move that would bring the United States in line with nearly every other country in the developed world, there are multiple proposals in Congress to send parents a monthly benefit from the time their child is born until they turn 18. Under the Democratic plan, for children under six, the proposed payment would be $3,600 a year. For ages six to 18, it would be $3,000 per child."

The Paycheck Protection Program is now more accessible — but it’s still flawed, Vox: "Small-business advocates welcome these changes, though they note that there’s plenty more that can still be done to improve the program, which has proved confusing and overwhelming for many people. Because PPP still has relatively rigid rules on how money can be spent, as well as a complicated loan forgiveness process, there has been hesitation from some small businesses about using the program and risking taking on more debt."

Dems prepare for party-line House vote on Biden's pandemic aid bill, Politico: "The House is on track to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package by the end of this week as Congress sprints to deliver aid to millions of Americans reeling from the pandemic and facing a jobless benefits cliff in mid-March. But House Democrats aren't expecting to get a single GOP vote for their aid package, which they're taking up with the procedural maneuver known as reconciliation in order to win Senate passage without the threat of a filibuster."

C.D.C. Announces $200 Million ‘Down Payment’ to Track Virus Variants, NY Times: "Scientists say the new investment will help in the next couple of months but hope that the stimulus package will provide much more."

American Indians and Alaska Natives are dying of COVID-19 at shocking rates, Brookings: "In some states, the COVID-19 death rate for AIAN people is similar to that of whites who are 20 to 30 years older. These disparities–together with both a recent and long history of racism and crimes against First Nations–make a strong case that federal, state, and local governments should make every effort to work with Tribal governments and the Indian Health Services (IHS) to ensure scarce vaccine resources are allocated to, and ultimately reach, American Indians and Alaska Natives of all ages as soon as possible."

Child allowances are a winning investment
Irwin Garfinkel, Laurel Sariscsany, Elizabeth Ananat, Sophie Collyer & Christopher Wimer

"The United States does not currently guarantee income support universally to families with children, despite income being an important driver of children’s wellbeing and eventual long-term success. Research finds that cash and near-cash benefits increase children’s health, education, and future earnings while also decreasing costs with respect to health, child protection, and criminal justice.

In this research brief, we summarize results from our study 'A Cost Benefit Analysis of a Child Allowance' to document the costs and benefits of making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and increasing its value to levels proposed in the American Family Act and President Biden’s American Rescue Plan: $3,600 for children ages 0 to 5 and $3,000 for children ages 6-17.

We find that child allowances are a winning investment in our children’s future mobility." Read the full Poverty & Social Policy brief here.

Take Action NOW to Repair NJ's Racial Injustice!
Four hundred (and one) years after the first Black people arrived in Jamestown as captives, America continues to feel the stain of its original sin of slavery.

New Jersey is no exception, where this legacy is still felt in the areas of voter suppression, policing, youth incarceration, housing access and school segregation. As the national conversation around reparations continues, the issue must be addressed here in New Jersey, as well.

The NJ Legislature has introduced a bill to form a Reparations Task Force. ACT NOW to urge your state legislators to pass, and Gov. Murphy to sign into law, this bill (S322/A711) to make sweeping policy recommendations that implement deep investments into New Jersey's communities of color impacted by NJ's system of racial discrimination. Repairing our nation's original sin belongs to all of America, including NJ. Learn more & Take Action Today!

Kathleen Crotty Fellowship, NJ Policy Perspective
The Kathleen Crotty Fellowship honors Kathy’s legacy by providing an eager, self-motivated student committed to public service with an intensive summer experience working in New Jersey policy and advocacy, under the guidance of experienced mentors at NJPP. Crotty Fellows participate actively in the research and writing of reports, op-eds and blog posts for publication, and will join NJPP analysts in outreach and coalition work. Fellows should come away with experience and networks to help them launch successful careers in New Jersey public service. Fellows receive a $10,000 stipend.

Please send your cover letter, resume and writing sample to by March 1 using the subject line format: “Crotty Fellowship 2021 – [Your last name].” Finalists will be contacted by March 8 to schedule an interview. The Fellow will be notified by April 5. No phone calls, please. Learn more about the Crotty Fellowship here.

Summer Research Internship Program, Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging
The Rutgers University Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research (IFH) Summer Research Internship Program is designed for undergraduate/graduate students interested in biomedical or social science research.

This program is a 10- week internship opportunity for qualified students who would like to gain hands-on, guided and practical experience in a project related to the interdisciplinary areas of research at IFH while being introduced more holistically to research processes and possibilities.The expected time commitment per week is 20-30 hours. A $2000 stipend may be available for qualified applicants. Please send Resume/CV and 1-page cover letter to by March 13th. Learn more about the IFH Summer Research Internship Program here.

Honoring Black History Month with RU & PRCC
February 1-28, 2021
Join the RU - New Brunswick community and the Paul Robeson Cultural Center to celebrate Black History Month with events that reflect the richness of the African diaspora and historical contributions of trailblazers.
Learn more at the PRCC website!

NJ Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Address with Gov Phil Murphy
TODAY at 1:00 PM EST via Youtube (live stream)
Watch LIVE as Gov. Murphy delivers his Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Address. 
Yearly budgets directly impact social work and populations we aim to support.
Watch here.

Achieving Economic and Racial Justice for Black Workers:
Policy Priorities for 2021 and Beyond
February 24 (4 - 5:30 PM EST via Zoom)
Free. Registration Required. 
As the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must define what economic justice and racial justice look like for Black workers in the 21st century. Join EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE) for a discussion that identifies essential policies for achieving recovery, as well as necessary structural and systemic changes that are key to remedying longstanding racial disparities in the labor market.

Marc Bayard, Director, Institute for Policy Studies Black Worker Initiative
Rebecca Dixon, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project
Kyle Moore, PREE Economist, Economic Policy Institute
Moderated by Valerie Wilson, PREE Director, Economic Policy Institute
Learn more about this informative event here.

New Jersey Black Lives Matter Movement (Union Unit Event)
February 24 (7:00 - 8:30 PM EST via Zoom)
Free. Registration Required.
The murder of George Floyd has brought more attention to the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and around the world. While most of the focus has been on ending police violence, the movement encompasses much more and has a strong focus on mutual aid. Join us for a presentation from New Jersey Black Lives Matter to learn about how the movement has evolved from the Black Panthers and the work that is happening throughout New Jersey, the United States, and internationally.
Presenter: Shevone Torres
Learn more about this local BLM event here.

Press Conference on NJ Reparations Task Force Legislation
February 25 (10:45 AM EST via zoom)
Free. Log into Zoom event here.
Join the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus and the United Black Agenda group to urge New Jersey to pass the Reparations Task Force Bill, S322/A711, now!We will hear from advocates around the state, including a multi-faith group of clergy.
This groundbreaking bill, unanimously supported by the Legislative Black Caucus, would require NJ to take responsibility for its role in American Slavery and make policy and other recommendations to repair its enduring effects.
It is time to repair the harm. It begins with legislation.

Black Contributions to Social Welfare & Social Work: A Legacy of Black Self-help, Resistance, and Liberation
Presented by Justin S. Harty
February 25 (5:30 PM EST via Zoom)
Free. Registration Required.
Limited to 300 participants.
Despite having a long and rich history of mutual aid towards families, communities, and neighbors, Black people have repeatedly been excluded from the histories of social welfare and social work. This talk will leverage historical texts, social work conference proceedings, and archival documents to highlight historical contributions to social work and social welfare made by Black individuals, leaders, communities, organizations, and movements that are often absent in the dominant literature of our social work profession.

Topics of discussion will include historical Black efforts towards self-help, preservation, liberation, activism, and social justice and a social work profession failing to recognize these efforts as “social work” while struggling to confront anti-Black racism, train Black social workers, and meet the needs of the Black community.

Webinar: Climate Change Policies in the Biden Administration
March 3 (2:00 PM EST via Zoom)
Free. Registration Required.
"The Obama administration tried to assert U.S. leadership on climate policy by adopting greenhouse gas regulations for motor vehicles, power plants, and other industries, but the Trump administration systematically rolled back those policies.  Will the Biden administration try to return to the Obama administration’s approach?   Will it try new approaches?  What are the constraints and opportunities it is likely to face?"

Roger Karapin is a Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Learn more here.

Social Work, White Supremacy, and Racial Justice Symposium (Part 3)
Mar 4 – Mar 5 (12:30 - 4:30 PM EST via Zoom)
Free. Registration Required.
"Social work has a complex history of upholding White supremacy alongside a goal to achieve racial justice. Moreover, our profession simultaneously practices within racist systems and works to dismantle them. In the wake of a fervent #BlackLivesMatter movement and persistent racial disparities in key social welfare institutions, these paradoxes have come to the forefront of discussion in academic and practice circles. This unique moment presents an opportunity to interrogate our profession’s relationship to White supremacy and racial justice in order to reimagine an anti-racist future.

Part 3 of this 4 part series explores emerging movements in social work that are working to actively dismantle racism and White supremacy. If anti-racism is the goal, how will we get there? What is the future we can imagine, and what is the future of social work in this new society?"

Review the full Symposium schedule & event details here.

Campaign School for Social Workers

Friday and Saturday, February 26-27, 2021 via Zoom
Advanced Registration & Payment Required
You belong in politics! The Campaign School for Social Workers is for anyone who wants to be more politically active as a candidate, staff, volunteer and/or advocate for social change. Attendees learn from political social workers and national experts how to run a winning campaign, gain exposure to political career paths, and build valuable skills that can be applied to any practice setting.

We have a strong network of more than 2,000 alumni who have gone on to run for elected office, work for elected officials, volunteer in campaigns, and/or serve as advocates for social change. Register today! Learn More & Register for the 2021 Campaign School for Social Workers

28th Annual NASW-NJ Conference & Exhibition 
March 7-8 via Zoom (Review session times via website)
Free for Student Members of NASW
& Affordable Options for Student Non-Member of NASW
Registration Required.

The NASW-NJ Annual Conference is the must-attend event of the year for New Jersey's social workers. The conference brings together over 1,000 participants from across New Jersey and nationwide for 2 days of learning, laughter, and networking. With dynamic keynote speakers, cutting-edge workshops, and engaging special presentations, attendees have the opportunity to earn up to 22 Continuing Education credits during the event.

Social work has a complex history of upholding white privilege alongside a goal to achieve racial justice. Moreover, our profession simultaneously practices within racist systems and works to dismantle them. The 2021 NASW-NJ Virtual Conference will present an opportunity to examine our profession’s relationship to white privilege and racial justice in order to reimagine an anti-racist future.

Toward a More Just Future Hosted by RU SSW Professor, Marla Blunt Carter, Season 1, Episode 1:
"Toward a More Just Future is a podcast from Rutgers School of Social Work. We envision a future for our world that is grounded in justice, and we are committed to leading for justice through a focus on innovation, excellence, collaboration, and community. Deeply grounded in inclusion, intersectionality, diversity, equity, and advancement, this podcast explores a variety of topics pertinent to social workers and social work students working towards progress." Listen today!

The Social Work Policy Network's e-newsletter is created by:
Brittany Libby, MSW Graduate Student, Network Research Assistant
Dr. Lenna Nepomnyaschy, RU Associate Professor, Network Founder

Are you aware of any policy updates, events or academic articles that you wish to see in this newsletter? Submit your contributions to us via

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