Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.) have been working closely with the New Jersey Legislative Black and Latino Caucuses, as well as stakeholders within the municipalities of Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union Township, to identify how best New Jersey can be on a “Road to Recovery” during this lingering pandemic.
Over the past five years, Holley has been focused in the state Legislature promoting, economic growth, social justice issues, public education, transportation, pension reform and other key issues affecting his constituents. Through the urging of the Assemblyman, as well as other progressive state lawmakers, the fiscal ’22 state budget now invests heavily in programs and supports that directly benefit residents in the four towns comprising the 20th Legislative District.
Through this work and commitment, the state’s upcoming spending plan includes:
Small business is the backbone of the 20th District. With such a dire impact from the pandemic, Holley has made it a focus to support more state revenue to support merchants and restaurant owners, calling for at least $200 million in the upcoming budget. The proposed spending plan incorporates many of Holley’s priorities. That includes:
- $100 million from the recently-adopted Economic Recovery Act’s Main Street Recovery Finance program
- $25 million in state Economic Development Authority funding
- $20 million for urban redevelopment
- $13.5 million to create Transit Villages, bikeways and easier, safer access to train and bus stations
- $10 million for the state’s Black and Latinx Seed Fund Initiative
Because of job loss in the 20th Legislative District, many people have lost their homes or cannot pay the rent and/or utilities. Holley has successfully fought for a moratorium until people get back on their feet. The support plan includes:
- The state has a $350 million federally-funded rental assistance program; Holley has serve as an active conduit to inform residents about the relief of which they are entitled. To date, statewide, an estimated 15,080 households have benefitted, with $91.3 million to help ensure people remain at home, with their families.
- Moreover, Holley has advocated for a special housing assistance program through the state Department of Human Services, equaling another $10.5 million to more than 1,600 residents.
- There is also funding for fiscal ’22 for additional rental assistance, as well as a pilot program for expectant mothers.
But aid during COVID is not the sole solution. Holley is pushing for more and more citizens of the 20th Legislative District to achieve the American Dream of home ownership. That is why the assemblyman has voiced strong support for new initiatives, including:
- $20 million in down payment assistance to help create more affordable mortgages in such an expensive part of New Jersey.
- $12 million to build more multi-family projects, which are often a gateway for home ownership in Elizabeth and other densely-populated areas of the district.
- Simplifying the process for permitting for home construction to reduce red tape, lower construction costs and complete projects more quickly.
There are many lingering societal issues in the 20th Legislative District because of extensive and unnecessary incarceration, destroying families and furthering a cycle of poverty. People want a hand up, not a hand out. That is why Holley has been pushing for educational programs that give incarcerated individuals a fighting chance to learn a trade and ultimately build a career following release.
- $5 million to improve internet access in state prisons for education, employment and legal materials, as well as $2 million for IT modernization and security enhancements in the prisons.
- $4.2 million to reduce juvenile delinquency.
- $3 million for grants to fund non-profits that facilitate prisoner re-entry
- $2 million for career training programs
Residents of the 20th Legislative District can not be successful at work if they do not have a reliable source of transportation. That is why NJ Transit has been a critical focus of Holley’s work, including support for:
- $2 billion from the federal government for major infrastructure projects that affect the district, such as the replacement of the 110-year-old Portal North Bridge.
- Calling for no fare hikes
- More spending by NJ Transit so it can upgrade its infrastructure and focus on rider safety and on-time reliability.
- Construction of a new building facility in Elizabeth
- Hiring more train engineers
While many individuals living in the 20th Legislative District are not fortunate enough to earn a pension, that fact is the state is drowning in pension liabilities. Because of this ongoing quandary, there is less money to support local schools and civic programs in the district. Holley has called for sweeping pension reform that will ultimately remove this financial noose. That is why he is supporting:
- $6.4 billion in pension contributions, saving $861 million in interest over 30 years.
- Over the past four years, the state has doubled its commitment to pension payments, which is $9.4 billion more than Gov. Chris Christie contributed over two terms.
Delivering a quality public education to the 20th Legislative District is near and dear to Holley, who graduated from Abraham Clark High School and Kean University. There needs to be more and more investment in public schools, which is why Holley pushed for the planned increase in grades preK-12 schools by nearly $1.5 billion in the upcoming budget for districts statewide. Moreover, anyone in the 20th Legislative District should be able to earn a college degree, no matter their income.
Holley is fully supportive of:
- Providing more than $578 million in new aid.
- Earmarking $25 million more for special education.
- Funding an account of $75 million for capital maintainence.
- Expanding the investment in pre-K programs by $50 million, with the focus of supporting Universal Pre-K where it is truly needed.
- Supporting the “Garden State Guarantee,” which provides two years of free college tuition at a four-year school for households with incomes less than $65,000.
- Investing $27 million in tuition-free community college and expanded the Educational Opportunity Fund – which Holley used to fund his undergraduate degree from Kean University.