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State Sen. Ronald Rice. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Rice: Appoint Oliver, Agudosi to guide economic recovery

By Nikita Biryukov, April 22 2020 5:50 pm

State Sen. Ron Rice wants Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver to help guide the state’s economic recovery.

“As the state moves forward in developing an Economic Response Team, it is of critical importance that Black and Latino legislators and equity leaders are embedded into the workgroup to inform and guide policy decisions and programs,” wrote Rice in a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy Wednesday. “Their inclusion and input from the start will ensure: (1) Direct, immediate access to information about government sponsored programs and resources; and (2) Policies and processes designed to deploy programs and fund allocations equitably.”

Rice, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, wants the governor to appoint Oliver and Chief Diversity Officer Hester Agudosi to the task force guiding the reopening of the state’s economy following a near-total shutdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Black residents in New Jersey have died of the virus in disproportionately high numbers.

Murphy on Wednesday signed a bill requiring hospitals report demographic data about COVID-19 patients to the department of health.

“Understanding the impact of COVID-19 by demographic group is critical to ensure equity in our response to this virus,” the governor said. “We must do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable groups in our state during this unprecedented crisis. This data will inform our efforts and allow us to make sure that no one is left behind.”

The law, which was passed with bipartisan support, codifies existing data collection practices.

“Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on our state and the nation, appearing to disproportionately impact men and the African-American community,” said Senator Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa), the bill’s chief Republican sponsor. “The more demographic information we can gather from our hospitals on infections, the better we can identify, react, study, and prevent new COVID-19 cases in vulnerable populations. Arming our health commissioner with data and case statistics can help match medical care to those at greater risk.”

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