Last week State Departmental budget hearings continued. Department of Human Services/Medicaid, Department of Children and Families, Department of Banking and Insurance and Department of Correction/State Parole Board testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The Department of Corrections/State Parole Board also testified before the Assembly Budget Committee.
Department of Human Services
Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Sarah Adelman testified on the FY 2023 budget and the impacts it will have on New Jersey’s residents. Commissioner Adelman noted that the DHS mission is directly aligned with the Murphy Administration: to provide New Jerseyans with the opportunity to live to their fullest at every stage of life. The Governor’s proposed budget continues to build upon this mission by providing $210 million in state and federal funding to support higher wages for childcare workers, direct support professionals, home health aides and personal care assistants, private duty nurses, mental health and addiction professionals, certified nurse aides, and other nursing home employees. This budget also includes a $27 million increase directed to community-based mental health and substance use disorder healthcare providers that work with the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The FY 2023 budget includes an $11 million investment to help expand health coverage to ensure no child in the State is left without health care coverage. As well as an additional $6.85 million for Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged & Disable (PAAD) to support older adults needing assistance with the cost of prescriptions.
Commissioner Adelman highlighted that their work to combat the opioid epidemic will be supplemental with more than $640 million over the next 18 years through the opioid manufacturers and wholesalers' settlement. The funds will aid critical opioid use disorder resources and programs, strengthening the State’s overdose prevention strategies, and connecting residents to support and treatment programs.
The FY23 budget also includes $12 million to fund a $20 per day increase in homeless shelter rates and $2.4 million to increase hotel/motel rates to $60 per day to assist those receiving temporary emergency housing. This is the first time since 2003 that these rates have been raised.
Commissioner Adelman concluded by highlighting that over the past two years the Department has delivered more than $1 billion in childcare assistance; more than $2 billion in extra food assistance to children, seniors, and families; and kept more than two million residents enrolled in NJ Family Care.
Department of Corrections
Acting Commissioner Victoria L. Kuhn of the Department of Corrections (DOC) provided testimony to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
The Acting Commissioner highlighted several key topics, including consolidation; staffing and workforce; and rehabilitation and reentry. She reported that the populations in correction establishments throughout the state are in decline with a current count of 12,217. The decline is attributed to sentencing laws, diversionary programs, and the expansion of early release and reentry programs that reduce recidivism. Currently, 72% of all inmates are serving time for violent offenses.
One key focus of the DOC is rehabilitation and reentry. The DOC has partnered with local governments to launch the Locally Empowered Accountability and Determined (NJ LEAD) grant. This program is the first year provided direct funding to 17 locally-based non-profits and municipalities that support the development of reentry programs in every area of the state. The FY23 budget recommends doubling this effort to expand access to reentry services in each county.
Acting Commissioner Kuhn addressed staffing and workforce issues. The DOC currently employs, 1,118 custody staff members who are currently within five years or less of retirement. The Department has experienced a reduction in the existing custody staff from 6,276 in FY 2017 to 5,450 in FY 2022 or a reduction of 826 custody staff in just five years. The Department is currently facing the same challenges as many other industries in attracting new recruits. Within the DOC, Kuhn reported, 22% of newly elected staff leave within three years. To address this issue the Department created a full-time Recruiting Team.
In closing remarks, the Acting Commissioner expressed her support for Governor Murphy’s Budget, stating it provides the opportunity to reshape State institutions, develop additional innovative programs that will set people on a path towards reintegration, ensure all individuals are treated with respect and dignity, and reinvest in staff.
Department of Children and Families
Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) testified to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The Commissioner expressed her support in Governor Murphy’s FY 2023 budget, stating that it allows investment in the children and families of New Jersey. While the Department gave a full testimony, there was little of local government impact. If you are interested in how the budget impacts the Department of Children and Families and its programming, we recommend reviewing their testimony.
Banking and Insurance
The Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, Marlene Caride, provided testimony on the FY 2023 proposed budget to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Commissioner Caride shared the Department of Banking and Insurance’s mission–to protect and educate consumers on financial stability and ensure financial stability of the entities they regulate. Commissioner Caride noted that the FY23 budget for the department totals $90.3 million. The Department is generally funded by the industries it regulates, and the department’s operational budget remains largely flat. Its adjusted budget for FY 2022 is $89.5 million. The department’s operational budget for FY 2023 is $65.3 million with an additional $25 million appropriation to help residents’ access quality, affordable health insurance through our state-based exchange, bringing its total budget to $90.3 million.
For more on the testimony, please review the department’s testimony.
Contact: Andrew LaFevre, Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481, x116.