Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz that would supplement the “Public Health Priority Funding Act of 1977” and would require a minimum annual State appropriation of $10 million for Public Health Priority Funding, was released by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
The bill, S-2413, would serve to reinstate New Jersey’s only State appropriated, unrestricted fund for local health departments. If signed into law, the bill would take effect immediately.
“In the harshest months of the COVID-19 pandemic, our local communities benefited from the support and expertise made available through our local health departments,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “This re-established priority funding will make sure these departments remain robust and able to effectively respond at the first sign of trouble in a public health crisis.”
Currently, local health departments are funded through local property taxes in addition to State and federal funding that is designed for specific purposes, such as vaccines or environmental health services. The re-establishment of dedicated Public Health Priority Funding would allow local health departments to plan for operational expenses and support core local public health programs with funding unassociated with guidelines or restrictions.
“During the height of the pandemic it became abundantly clear the critical role local and county health departments play in keeping our communities safe. It is important we are providing the funding necessary for them to continue this work not just when we are in crisis but all of the time. Local health departments play a key role in bringing resources and services directly into our neighborhoods and to the people who need it most,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex).
Local health departments played a major role in the COVID-19 response and vaccination efforts, yet they received no-state based funding in New Jersey throughout the pandemic.
“New Jersey’s local public health departments are the front-line defense for all public health emergencies,” said Christopher Merkel, President of the New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials. “You cannot build a sustainable workforce who will be ready to battle the next pandemic with short-term restrictive grant funding, which is why our local public health departments need reliable, flexible long-term funding.”
“Restoring Public Health Priority Funding through Senate bill S-2413 is a step in the right direction,” added President Merkel. “Thank you to all the sponsors of S-2413. Together we can support a robust public health infrastructure that will be ready to combat the next Public Health Emergency for years to come.”
The bill was released from committee on a vote of 8-0.