Twin Devastations of COVID and Climate Change
NJ is impacted by sea level rise more than many other places in the country and even the world. We also have seen some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the country. Working together though, we now have some of the lowest numbers of cases. We can work together to become one of the best places in the country to prepare for and address sea level rise and extreme storms. To do so, as with COVID, it will take a strong state and regional effort.
As part of a “Community Coming Together COVID-19 Virtual Meeting,” Dr. Rachel Cleetus, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, joined us to walk residents through the juxtaposition of COVID and climate change, the impacts, the responses, and what remains to be done.
The 2020 hurricane season offers us a portrait of larger, fiercer, more frequent storms, as warming ocean waters fuel even greater tempests, battering the Gulf Coast or the Eastern seaboard, and farther inland as well. The damage to property and lives lost collides with the economic devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses closed and millions unemployed, with many threatened with eviction and foreclosure, as well as the immense loss of life in the US, almost 200,000 dead as we write this. This is government resources and society at large under huge strain.
Learn more as Dr. Cleetus explores the science, the politics, the problems and solutions as we face the twin devastations of COVID and Climate Change.
One of the thorniest situations to arise during the coronavirus pandemic has been whether or not to reopen schools and if so how to do so safely. Schools reopened in a variety of ways; a minority started as all in-person instruction, some all-virtual learning, but most began as a hybrid, a mix of in-person and virtual learning.
Experts on all sides agreed reopening schools was paramount, but it must be done safely. “Safely” generally translated to mean reopen in hybrid or in-person fashion only if there were low transmission rates in the school communities and the schools established safety protocols like masks, social distancing, hand washing, small classes, enhanced air ventilation, increase use of the outdoors, keeping the sick at home, testing and quarantining procedures.
Learn more while exploring these issues in depth in this presentation by NJRP Board Member, Dr. Amy Williams. Dr. Amy shared this on a “Community Coming Together COVID-19 Virtual Meeting in August.”
Medication Assisted Treatment to End Overdose More Important Amidst COVID
Before the coronavirus crisis, another crisis lurked, the overdose crisis. Now the overdose crisis is wrapped inside the COVID-19 crisis. What has that meant for sufferers of substance use disorders? The results have been a decrease in access to in-person recovery and therapy sessions as they transitioned to online, either telemedicine or Zoom meetings. Access to the gold standard of treatment for substance use disorders, medication assisted treatment, has also been curtailed because of the coronavirus. For some, not being with a supportive group or not having easy access to online technology, raised anxiety levels, increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. These combinations of factors have led to an increase in the rate of overdose, estimated in 2020 to be 20% higher than in 2019.
At the New Jersey Resource Project, we believe all people deserve dignity and respect, and to live a happy and fulfilled life- regardless of if they are using drugs/struggling with addiction or not. And, to that end, we are focused on increasing access to medication assisted treatment that saves lives. Brendan’s story coming soon…
Housing crisis and the pandemic
As unemployment has surged because of layoffs and business closings related to the COVID-19, pandemic, government aid from the Cares Act, from the PPP program, and state unemployment fund has helped stabilize income for some, but it’s not enough. The number of renters and homeowners unable to pay their rent or their mortgage payments increased dramatically. For example, 450,000 households (40% of renters in the state), were unable to afford August’s rent, adding to $687 million in unpaid rent since March, according to the “COVID Economic Impact Report,” released by a consulting firm and based on census information.
Right now because of Governor Murphy’s Executive Order, there can be no evictions or foreclosures for at least two months after the health emergency order lapses. (The Governor renews it every thirty days.) However, the rent and mortgage amounts due continue to accrue.
Eviction and foreclosure filings continue to pile up, even if they cannot be executed.
We have been educating our members and the public about rental assistance and landlord assistance programs, as well as other programs that are helpful to families struggling to pay the bills like the fact that utilities can’t be shut off at the moment.
When the pandemic ends, and it will eventually, hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans may find themselves out on the streets because they were unable to pay all the money they owed.
A bill passed by the state Assembly, but stalled in the Senate, called the “People’s Bill,” would at least put in place some protections. A coalition of organizations continues to advocate for its passage, including Compassionate NJ. Explore this link for further information.