Tag Archive: Jennifer Velez

How Should We Pay the People We Entrust Our Kids To?

As the news media fawns over Chris Christie’s self-promotion today, there’s an arguably more important story that won’t make the front pages. In fact, aside from this blogger, the only other media there was a video journalist from one of the Philadelphia television stations.

It’s an established fact that quality care and education early in a child’s life can set the tone for that individual throughout his or her lifetime. So why is it that some of the people we entrust with our youngsters are compensated at effectively below minimum wage?

Today in Trenton, about one hundred child care providers, represented by CWA Local 1037, rallied in front of the Department of Human Services to make their case for adequate wages. These workers, mostly women, earn a median income of less than $25,000 according to a study by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work.

The child care providers are independent contractors, paid through DHS, but do not receive the benefits that state workers do as they care for children of similarly underpaid workers or full-time students. Even with subsidies, some say they will not be able to afford health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

According to Trina Scordo, Executive Director of New Jersey Communities United, there are about 2000 of these workers who provide child care, meals, and activities for pre-school children in the care providers’ home. These workers are not glorified baby-sitters. Far from it. According to the Rutgers study, their average experience in the field is 12½ years, and most have had at least 20 hours of approved education in the past three years. As one of the workers, Shanita Hargrove of Newark explains in the accompanying video, their services range from changing diapers to developing motor skills to emergency room visits when a child is ill.

Upon arrival in Trenton, the group visited some small businesses nearby (on the same street that Barbara Buono campaigned on last week), and then held a brief demonstration in front of the Department of Health. Following that, a small delegation entered the building to deliver a petition to Commissioner Jennifer Velez. Velez’s office refused to accept the petition.

Paul Karr, a spokesman for the union, told me that their plan is to regroup, come back bigger and stronger, and work toward a fair contract for the child care providers.

Now: Live-Tweeting Assembly Budget Committee Public Hearing

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In the nearly-full Committee Room 11 at the State House Annex, the Assembly Budget Committee has just begun their public hearing to discuss Department of Human Services/Medicaid portion of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Hearing started a few minutes late, with a moment of silence for the victims of yesterday’s Boston Marathon bombing. Commissioner Jennifer Velez is up first.

Deciminyan is live-Tweeting @BlueJersey.

Listen live at NJ Legislature media page.

Have a concern about the NJ State Plan on Aging?

Speak up at a public hearing.

Once Again: Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Poor

Once again, the less fortunate among us are being asked by the Christie administration to do more than their fair share in the governor’s “shared sacrifice” approach to the budget crisis. This time it is lower income Medicaid recipients who are the victims of Christie’s draconian axe.

On the day when the New Jersey Supreme Court rebuked Governor Christie’s refusal to carry out the legislature’s education mandates, the Assembly Budget Committee heard testimony from the governor’s health leadership team – Mary O’Dowd, Commissioner of Health, and Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of Human Services.

The primary purpose of the hearing, chaired by Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden), was to discuss the administration’s proposal for a waiver to certain federal Medicaid requirements. The impetus for the waiver is a savings of $300 million.

Loud & Clear: Women in New Jersey Need That Family Planning Money!

O.K. So I already told you all about our meeting with the Governor, and we’re still waiting to hear back from him. I followed up by sending him a letter from the Federally Qualified Health Centers in which they say they’re getting close to the “edge” on funding. It is quite obvious that in addition to those folks who were thrown off Family Care Insurance by the Christie budget, the FQHCs are not going to be able to provide for an influx of new patients from the Family Planning Centers.

Today we are having a Senate Health, Human Services & Senior Services Committe hearing. We’ll start with Congressman Frank Pallone who will give us information on how a state plan amendment will be allowed under the new health care reform law. The Committee will also question the HHSS Comissioner, Dr. Alaigh, about the status of these centers. We’ve invited the Treasurer to share with us his difference of opinion with the Office of Legislative Services on the funding mechanism. We were turned down by Jennifer Velez to testify on the medicaid waiver and apparently she could not send a representative from the Human Services Department.  Mmmm???  Should be an enlightening meeting. I’m sure the Governor has the message loud and clear that we are not going away on this important issue.

Budget Committee is meeting to begin discussion on some of Governor Christie’s so called “tool kit”.  I predict that these ideas will be a lot more problematic in the legislature.  As you can see, this is and will continue to be a busy summer for us. The “heat” outside is probably matching what I expect will be the “heat” within our Trenton caucuses.

Before the new budget really unfolds and folks feel the full brunt of it, the Governor started with a new distraction – School Superintendent Salaries.  A worthier target than classroom teachers and easier to spin as “greedy guys”. Just take a cursory look at this budget.  It is clear that the Governor did not re-invent the way Trenton operates. In fact he gave us more of what he’s blaming for our current economic problems.  Oh yes, he made big cuts in aid to schools and municipalities. Whereas Massachusetts increased municipal aid when their cap was instituted. He is skipping this year’s State payment to the pension fund, and will still complain that the fund going broke! Remember, employees continue to make their payments. And lo and behold, he’s going out to borrow money to shore up the Transportation Trust Fund – a fund going broke because most of the payments are going to pay debt! Can you imagine what the Republicans would be saying if this had been a Corzine-Democratic budget? I think we will hear the noise level when folks open their property tax bills this Fall.

Yes, I know — He has the bully pulpit! But we need to do a better job translating to the public what the Christie budget priorities mean to New Jersey residents who I know think their schools are important, and who rely on their police and fire personnel to keep them safe.  They want to drive on decent roads and not pay increased costs to ride public transportation. They want uninsured women to have access to health care and to birth control. And yes, they did not want the “more than millionaires” to get a tax break, while the rest of us pay much more. Yes, it’s going to be a busy and overheated time!

Keep your voices heard!