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Newark, New Jersey, tops the list as the dirtiest city in America

(The Center Square) – Newark, New Jersey, according to a new analysis, is the dirtiest city in the country.

According to the 2022 Dirtiest Cities in America rankings from LawnStarter, the Gateway City edged out Houston and Los Angeles to earn the distinction.

LawnStarter ranked nearly 90 of the largest cities nationwide to compile its list. It examined four key categories: pollution, living conditions, infrastructure and consumer satisfaction.

“City living has its advantages, but with greater population density often comes an assortment of problems like pests, litter, and pollution that can turn any city from sparkling to filthy,” LawnStarter said in its analysis.

Newark ranked No. 13 for pollution and No. 21 for living conditions. Meanwhile, its infrastructure ranking came in at No. 43, while its customer satisfaction was second.

Elsewhere in New Jersey, Jersey City ranked No. 27 on the site’s list. In the region, New York City ranked No. 14, while Philadelphia ranked No. 31.

Earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the Passaic Valley Sewerage Community to nix a vote on a backup power plant in Newark’s Ironbound section, the Associated Press reported. Residents complained it would violate the “environmental justice” law Murphy signed in 2020.

In another project that might improve the city, earlier this month, the NJ Transit board approved a $9.2 million contract as part of a $190 million restoration and renovation of the 86-year-old Newark Penn Station.

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Analysis: New Jersey continues to see job growth, but overall its economic recovery has been mixed

(The Center Square) – New Jersey continues to see positive job numbers, but overall the state has experienced a mixed economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis.

This week, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development (DOL) reported employment gains for the 12th consecutive month. The agency said the Garden State has recovered 561,200 of the jobs lost at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 78% of the total.

While the state’s unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 6.3% for December, it remains higher than the national average of 3.9%.

“New Jersey recorded another month of good job growth in December, with the number of payroll positions increasing by 10,100,” Charles Steindel, New Jersey’s former chief economist, said in an analysis for the Garden State Initiative (GSI). “This was the 8th straight month that jobs have grown at least 10,000.”

Steindel’s analysis revealed widespread job growth in December but noted the state’s job count is 153,000 under its February 2020 peak.

The construction, manufacturing and leisure and hospitality sectors experienced increases of more than 1%. The information sector was the only major sector to see a drop; public-sector employment was “little-changed.”

“Much of the discussion has centered on the unemployment rate,” Steindel said. “Clearly, although New Jersey’s number has fallen, it remains sharply higher than the nation’s – in November our rate was the 4th highest.

However, Steindel noted that the unemployment rate is merely one way to look at the labor market’s health. Another is the fraction of the working-age population on the job.

“There too, though, New Jersey has fallen short,” Steindel said. “We entered the pandemic in February 2020 with a larger share of our population working than the national average.

“The drop through May 2020 was larger here than elsewhere, and our recovery since has trailed the nation, leaving us with a lower-than-average figure than the nation,” Steindel added. “This gap – now ½ percentage point – is much less than the unemployment rate gap of around 2 ½ percentage points, but it is further evidence that progress has been slower here than in many other states.”

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NJ Transit approves contracts for Trenton, Newark station projects

(The Center Square) – NJ Transit is moving forward with a pair of station overhauls on the busy Northeast Corridor.

Last week, the agency’s Board of Directors approved contracts for work at the Trenton Transit Center and historic Newark Penn Station.

The $1.9 million Trenton Transit Center contract to AECOM Technical Services includes construction support and design services for canopy, platform and accessibility improvements as part of a $29 million project. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) kicked in an $18.2 million State of Good Repair Grant for the project.

“Ultimately, this project will create a safer, more modern, and more accessible Trenton Transit Center – with additional capacity and convenience for the thousands of customers who use it every day,” NJ Transit President & CEO Kevin Corbett said in an announcement.

NJ Transit last rebuilt the Trenton station in 2008, and a station has been located on the site since 1863.

The $9.2 million Newark Penn Station contract to Parsons Transportation Group covers professional services, including master planning, design services and construction support for a $190 million restoration and renovation of the 86-year-old station. Parsons will partner with an architect and a transit-focused consultant firm.

“This contract marks the next big step in our efforts to restore and update Newark Penn Station, honoring its past as a cultural focal point, and ensuring that it remains a vibrant hub for New Jersey residents and visiting travelers,” New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said in an announcement. Gutierrez-Scaccetti chairs the NJ Transit Board.

Meanwhile, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded a “Medium-High” rating to the Hudson Tunnel project, moving it closer to federal funding. The project, part of the Gateway Program, calls for a new tunnel on the Northeast Corridor between New Jersey and New York City.

“The day many commuters never thought they’d ever see is finally coming,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. “We are closer than ever to securing a fairly and fully funded Gateway Program and beginning the work of delivering the safe and modern infrastructure our people and economy deserve.”

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New Jersey law would increase penalties for nursing homes that violate regulations

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy signed a measure that levies new penalties for long-term care facilities that violate state and federal regulations.

Under the measure, A-4478/S-2759, nursing homes cited for repeat or similar “F-level deficiencies” over a three-year period face more severe penalties. It also requires the state Department of Health (DOH) to mandate facilities publish financial statements online and produce annual reports on “facility-acquired infections.”

“Over the last two years, thousands of elderly residents in New Jersey’s nursing homes lost their lives due to coronavirus infection,” state Sen. Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, said in an announcement. “During that time, there has been little to no accountability for the policies that have been implemented.

“This legislation will make sure that we have accountability going forward and that any long-term care facility that violates state or federal regulations is held responsible,” Schepisi added. “We need to keep our most vulnerable residents safe—and hold those who put their health in jeopardy to account.”

The measure also creates a new nine-member Nursing Home Advisory Council to advise on the oversight of nursing homes and issues residents and families face.

“The alarming impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nursing homes has forced our state to ask some tough questions, such as why facilities are allowed to accept new residents when they cannot meet basic health and safety standards or why homes with repeated violations have failed to make critical changes,” Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, D-Essex, said in a statement.

“There are no easy answers, but we must begin by enforcing stricter penalties and increasing the accuracy and transparency of our reporting,” Speight added. “The vulnerable residents in our nursing homes deserve better, and this is how we can help ensure they receive proper care going forward.”

A January Office of Legislative Services (OLS) analysis determined that costs would increase by an indeterminate amount for the DOH to execute the additional data reporting and regulatory requirements.

In December, the office of Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, acknowledged the state agreed to pay roughly $53 million to families of veterans who died during the COVID pandemic’s early days. The settlement covers 119 residents who died during early outbreaks at the Menlo Park and Paramus Veterans Memorial Homes.

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This Is the Most Unusually Popular College Degree in New Jersey

There are over 170 different fields of study tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau in which undergraduate students can earn a degree. Despite the wide range of academic subjects offered at colleges and universities, over half of the 75 million American adults with a bachelor’s degree majored in one of just 15 fields of study.

Majors such as business, nursing, teaching, accounting, and biology are each among the most popular with undergraduates — and with good reason. Degrees in these fields prepare students for careers in essential industries like health care, education, and retail, where job opportunities are available in cities and towns across the country. Here is a look at the college majors with the lowest unemployment.

Of course, just as these industries are practically ubiquitous, many others are specific to certain parts of the country. This is often a reflection of a key industry that might be far less common in other parts of the country. In many cases, this is attributable to the presence of natural resources, like oil or mineral deposits, or geographic features, like a coastline. As a result, workers with degrees in less popular or more specialized subjects are often concentrated only in certain areas.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the most concentrated degree in New Jersey relative to the U.S. as a whole is naval architecture and marine engineering. Adults in the state are about two times more likely to have a degree in the field than the typical American adult. An estimated 0.07% of adults in the state have a naval architecture and marine engineering degree compared to 0.04% of adults nationwide.

Though demand for workers with this specific degree appears to be higher than average in the state, compensation is not necessarily higher than average. Adults with a naval architecture and marine engineering degree in New Jersey earn an average of $59,264 per year compared to the average income among all Americans with the degree of $79,502. It is important to note that average annual earnings include all adults with the degree, even those who are working part-time or not working.

All data in this story is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample. College majors are ranked within each state according to their location quotient — the percentage of adults 25 and older within a state with a certain bachelor’s degree relative to the percentage of adults with the same degree nationwide. The college major or field of study with the highest location quotient is considered the most unique college degree in every state.

StateMost uniquely popular degreeAdults in state with degree (%)Adults nationwide with degree (%)AlabamaCounseling psychology0.360.12AlaskaPetroleum engineering0.840.06ArizonaAstronomy and astrophysics0.060.02ArkansasMathematics and computer science0.110.03CaliforniaCognitive science and biopsychology0.110.03ColoradoGeological and geophysical engineering0.060.02ConnecticutClinical psychology0.230.05DelawareInterdisciplinary social sciences0.850.17FloridaOceanography0.090.03GeorgiaEarly childhood education1.180.41HawaiiOceanography0.320.03IdahoMining and mineral engineering0.240.03IllinoisCourt reporting0.050.01IndianaPublic policy0.330.07IowaAgriculture production and management1.430.19KansasAgricultural economics0.480.08KentuckyNuclear, industrial radiology, and biological technologies0.100.02LouisianaPetroleum engineering0.410.06MaineNaval architecture and marine engineering0.400.04MarylandInformation sciences0.620.20MassachusettsNaval architecture and marine engineering0.110.04MichiganMechanical engineering related technologies0.200.06MinnesotaSoil science0.070.01MississippiOceanography0.170.03MissouriSocial psychology0.080.02MontanaSoil science0.240.01NebraskaAtmospheric sciences and meteorology0.340.05NevadaGeological and geophysical engineering0.120.02New HampshireMathematics and computer science0.190.03New JerseyNaval architecture and marine engineering0.070.04New MexicoMilitary technologies0.050.01New YorkArt history and criticism0.500.22North CarolinaAtmospheric sciences and meteorology0.100.05North DakotaAgricultural economics0.980.08OhioTeacher education: multiple levels0.640.23OklahomaMilitary technologies0.070.01OregonGeological and geophysical engineering0.070.02PennsylvaniaArchitectural engineering0.100.04Rhode IslandElectrical, mechanical, and precision technologies and production0.130.03South CarolinaMaterials engineering and materials science0.160.06South DakotaSoil science0.120.01TennesseeNuclear engineering0.080.03TexasPetroleum engineering0.340.06UtahCourt reporting0.080.01VermontGeological and geophysical engineering0.190.02VirginiaMilitary technologies0.040.01WashingtonNaval architecture and marine engineering0.100.04West VirginiaMining and mineral engineering0.270.03WisconsinSoil science0.080.01WyomingMining and mineral engineering0.410.03

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Murphy signs executive order requiring health care workers to be vaccinated, boosted

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order mandating up-to-date COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for workers at health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings.

The order eliminates an option for those workers to submit negative COVID tests instead of receiving the vaccine. Workers who do not comply with the requirement, which aligns with a mandate from President Joe Biden, could be fired from their jobs, Murphy said.

Under the new mandate, unvaccinated health care workers have until Jan. 27 to receive their first vaccine dose and Feb. 28 for their second. Unvaccinated workers in high-risk congregate settings have until Feb. 28 to receive their first jab and March 30 for their second.

“We are no longer going to look past those who continue to put their colleagues, and perhaps I think even more importantly, those who are their responsibility in danger of COVID,” Murphy, a Democrat, said during a visit to a federal testing site at Stockton University. “That has to stop.”

Additionally, health care workers have until Feb. 28 to receive the booster, while high-risk congregate workers have until March 30 to receive it. Workers who aren’t eligible to receive the booster until after the mandated date shave three weeks from their booster eligibility date to receive the additional dose.

The governor said workers can seek an exemption for medical reasons or “deeply held religious beliefs.”

Republicans quickly pounced on the news, saying group homes and long-term care facilities will see a staffing crisis due to the new mandate.

“Doctors, nurses, and other medical caregivers have been fighting this fight against COVID-19 since the very beginning,” state Sen. Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, said in a news release. “After nearly two years, they’re tired, they’re burnt out, and they’re ready for a break.

“Instead of giving them extra support, they’re getting another new mandate from Governor Murphy that will further thin their ranks and increase the workload of those who remain,” Schepisi added. “It doesn’t make any sense and it certainly won’t be good for patients.”

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Murphy signs law to expand New Jersey’s film tax credit

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation to expand New Jersey’s film tax credit, but a leading Republican says the governor should focus on tax relief for Main Street businesses.

S-4094/A-6070 bolsters the New Jersey Film & Digital Media Tax Credit Program through an expanded digital media production tax credit. Murphy signed the tax credit into law in July 2018; it was expanded in January 2020.

“This legislation will ensure that our state remains a top destination for some of our country’s most significant film and TV productions,” Murphy, a Democrat, said in a news release.

An Office of Legislative Services (OLS) analysis found the measure could reduce state revenues by about $20 million annually.

However, state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Montville, criticized the governor for signing the bill and pocket vetoing A-4958/S-3740. The vetoed measure would have given a temporary sales and use tax exemption for small businesses to winterize operations.

“Dishing out big bucks to the Hollywood elite may be sexy and applauded by the entertainment world, but it’s a slap in the face to the one-third of businesses that closed their doors during this pandemic,” Pennacchio said in a news release. “These are Murphy’s twisted priorities.

“New Jersey taxpayers deserve more from our Governor, who claims to be ‘done with tax increases,’ but can’t break himself of the old habit,” Pennacchio added.

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New law would require New Jersey hotels to continue employing workers

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a measure requiring new hotel owners to keep workers on the payroll for at least 90 days following a sale, a requirement that a leading business group says should concern all businesses.

Under A-6246/S-4295, new hotel owners must retain workers employed by the previous owner without reducing their wages or benefits for 90 days. Murphy, a Democrat, signed the legislation into law on Tuesday.

“Anyone who owns a private business and who one day envisions selling it should be alarmed by this law, as it essentially allows government to dictate employment conditions on those transactions,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) President and CEO Michele Siekerka said in a statement.

After 90 days, hoteliers must evaluate workers’ performance and continue to offer employment if their performance is satisfactory. While new owners can eliminate workers, they must retain employees based on seniority and experience and rehire laid-off employees if positions are restored.

“It should not be the place of government to dictate levels of employment and previously negotiated wages and benefits,” Siekerka said. “It should not be the role of government to limit managerial discretion of a private business, which could actually impact the value of a property.

“The troubled hospitality industry is the immediate victim of this action,” Siekerka added. “But it’s only a matter of time before legislative efforts are made to make other industries fall prey to this intrusive mandate, which further solidifies New Jersey’s reputation as having the worst business climate in the country.”

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Murphy signs bill to create fund to counsel New Jerseyans facing foreclosure

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy signed a measure to create a fund to help counsel people facing foreclosure, a move proponents say will help struggling New Jerseyans.

A-6251 creates the “New Jersey Foreclosure Counseling Fund,” which the Department of Community Affairs will administer.

In each foreclosure, plaintiffs in foreclosure cases will pay $155 to the court clerk, and $60 will be deposited in the fund along with any money collected from civil penalties. Under the law, the funds go to the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) to cover the cost of trained counselors for pre-foreclosure counseling services.

“Providing this assistance will help homeowners avoid potential foreclosure and ensure that New Jerseyans are not losing their homes because of rules they may not have known about,” Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Mercer/Middlesex, said in a news release.

The law also allows the NJHMFA to use up to 5% of the fund’s annual allocation for administrative costs.

“Addressing the housing crisis in New Jersey must include supporting and educating renters. Renters are mostly left out of housing counseling services but it’s necessary for them too,” Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, D-Bergen/Passaic, said in a news release. “This law will also make counseling more available for renters and allow them to receive guidance prior to discussions with landlords.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Totowa, said taxes are hurting New Jerseyans as they struggle in the post-pandemic environment, criticizing Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, for bragging about the state’s condition during his recent State of the State.

“Residents have repeatedly cited property taxes as their top concern,” Corrado said in a news release. “Families living in average homes, with three bedrooms and a couple baths are paying almost $800 in property taxes every month — or more than $9,200 this year. Boasting about that is delusional.”

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Feds allocate $754,000 to New Jersey institutions for humanities projects

(The Center Square) – The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has allocated $754,176 to 10 humanities projects in New Jersey.

The money is part of $24.7 million in grants the NEH made to 208 such projects nationwide.

“These NEH grants will support educators and scholars in enriching our understanding of the past and enable cultural institutions from across the country to expand their offerings, resources, and public programming, both in person and online,” NEH Acting Chair Adam Wolfson said in an announcement. “We look forward to the many new insights and discoveries that these 208 exemplary projects will make possible.”

Among the Garden State projects, the NEH will send $330,000 to Rutgers University-Newark for four different projects, including $60,000 for research and writing of “a book about connections between music research and American zoology from 1950 to 2000.” An additional $60,000 will go toward research and writing of “a new edition of Shakespeare’s Othello to be published as part of the Arden Shakespeare Fourth Series.”

The NEH will send $265,000 to Princeton University for three projects and $120,000 to Rutgers University for two projects, including $60,000 toward research and writing of “a book on the cultural history of postcolonial custody disputes over children with French and Algerian parents during the 1970s and 1980s.”

The NEH will also send $39,176 to Montclair State University.