The New Jersey departments responding to the COVID-19 crisis have faced significant staff and spending cuts since 2008, according to a new report released by New Jersey Policy Perspective.
The progressive group found the Departments of Health, Human Services, Labor and Community Affairs were each operating with fewer staffers and, in all cases save the Department of Labor, less state funding than they were a year before Gov. Chris Christie won his first term.
“New Jersey’s state departments were cut to the bone under the previous administration and have yet to fully recover,” NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Reynertson said. “These cuts make it incredibly hard for the state to handle the COVID-19 crisis and respond to the needs of small business owners and those who have lost their jobs.”
The Departments of Health and Human Services have seen their collective staffing drop by 30% since 2008 on top of a 6% decrease in funding.
The situation was starker at the Department of Community Affairs, where a 42% decrease in state funding over the last 12 years has dropped fulltime staffing levels by 30%.
Though funding has remained stable at the Department of Labor, the agency has seen a 25% reduction in its staff size.
“Departments are doing an admirable job with the resources they have, but this is a reminder that austerity budgeting comes at a real cost to public health and economic security,” said NJPP President and report co-author Brandon McKoy. “New Jersey lawmakers must prioritize these agencies as they will act as the foundation for the state’s ultimate recovery.”