Normally, the annual legislative gathering of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey caps the group’s lobbying of state legislators.
The gathering brings together leaders of the JCRC, the federation, federation agencies, and Bergen County’s two rabbinic councils, along with elected officials at the town, county, state, and federal level.
Generally around 40 people attend, JCRC director Joy Kurland said, and several state legislators, county freeholders, and two mayors already have confirmed their attendance.
This year, however, the meeting, scheduled for Tuesday night, will come immediately after the legislature is expected to have approved the state budget – that vote is called for Tuesday’s session. The meeting, though, is set for before the budget will be signed, and possibly amended through line-item veto, by the governor.
The JCRC will pay close attention to the issue of Medicaid reimbursements for nursing homes. Last year’s budget cut 3 percent – $37.5 million – from state reimbursements. Because the federal government matches state grants for Medicaid, this came to a $75 million cut.
Governor Chris Christie’s proposed budget would restore $10 million of that $75 million. The JCRC, in conjunction with the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, is hoping that a further $25 million in nursing home reimbursements will be included in the legislature’s budget, which members of the legislature expect to pass on Tuesday.
“Our nursing homes, both the Jewish Home at Rockleigh and the Daughters of Miriam, were severely impacted by the cuts,” Kurland said; together they lost more than $1.5 million. “It really affected nursing-home care for the most vulnerable.”
The JCRC and the state federations also advocate for aging-in-place programs and senior transportation; developing a statewide aging plan is on the agenda. Another specific legislative agenda is denying public contracts to investors in Iran’s energy or finance sectors. Such a bill was passed to the full Senate by committee earlier this month.
Even though the state legislature is the prime focus of the JCRC’s lobbying efforts, involving more local government officials at the meeting helps the group meet its goals. “One year one of the county freeholders was very involved in the special needs issue on a personal level,” Kurland said. “He was able to effect some changes within the county level.”