When will New Jersey reopen?

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Image by Johi Smedberg from Pixabay
By Bradford Mason

As New Jersey continues to be one of the top U.S. states with the highest rate of coronavirus (COVID-19), the focus is now being turned on when the state will reopen for business and get people back to work.

President Donald Trump recently announced guidelines to reopen part of America by May 1, New Jersey could open back up by mid-May. Gov. Phil Murphy said during a recent press briefing that Garden State needs social distance another month before looking at reopening with no definite date. The governor said he hopes to reopen the state's 600 school districts by May 15. 

"Social distancing doesn't seem so much of an inconvenience if it means that we don't have to keep mourning so many blessings souls," Murphy said. "It remains the key to us flattening the curve, and eventually coming down the other side of it, to the point where we can responsibly begin the process of reopening our state."

New Jersey is part of a coalition of several Northeastern states including New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts aimed at restoring the economy and getting people back to work. The coordinating group – comprised of one health expert, one economic development expert and the respective Chief of Staff from each state -- will work together to develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus.

“No one has given more thought or is more eager to restart our economy than I am, but if we don’t get the sequencing right, we put more lives at risk," Murphy said. "The only path to a sustainable economic recovery is through a strong healthcare recovery. Then, and only then, do we position ourselves to fully ignite our economy and get the residents of our state back to work while minimizing the danger of this disease. A coordinated, regional approach, informed by a multi-state council of experts, will help us avoid a major setback with potentially disastrous consequences."

Murphy announced the appointments Dr. Rich Besser and Secretary Jeh Johnson to a multi-state board and council established with other governors to help lead and coordinate efforts regarding the eventual reopening of hard-hit Northeast. Besser currently serves as the President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is a former Acting Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Johnson served as the Secretary of the United States, Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama.

New Jersey has over 429,000 with that number continuing to rise. Those who have lost their jobs and can still work are being advised to visit the jobs portal at covid19.nj.gov. Reports indicate that unemployment claims fell by 34% last week. The state has reportedly paid $425 million unemployment benefits.

According to estimates released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, total nonfarm wage and salary employment in New Jersey decreased by 31,800 in March to a seasonally adjusted level of 4,210,100. Despite the employment decrease, the state’s unemployment rate held steady for March at 3.8 percent. 

"Each and every single one of us is equally essential in flattening the curve and getting ourselves to the point where we can responsibly begin to reopen our state," Murphy said. "Keep up with your social distancing, please stay at home. Keep wearing your face coverings, even though it may be a nuisance, and even if you think you look silly. Trust me, you don't. And you'll look far sillier if you have to trade in a face covering for a hospital gown."

In Washington, New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, along with Montana U.S Sen. and Steve Daines, recently unveiled a new $50 billion proposal to provide greater relief to small businesses left out of the Paycheck Protection Program, and urged Senate Leaders to include the bipartisan proposal in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.

In a letter sent o Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Senators outlined their proposal, which would create a $50 billion “Small Business Local Relief Fund” to provide direct assistance to cities, counties, and states to seed and scale local relief funds targeting businesses with 20 employees or less, or businesses with 50 employees or less located in low-income neighborhoods.

“By capitalizing new and existing local relief funds, we can open up more channels for distribution to help small businesses make payroll, pay rent, and otherwise weather this economic storm,” they wrote in the letter.

The Fund would “build on what is already working across the country,” the lawmakers wrote, “with a particular focus on businesses that are very small, minority-owned, rural, our outside the mainstream banking system.”

The New Jersey Economic Development Administration, which recently made available roughly 2,000 micro-grants to small businesses, received 10,000 applications within 75 minutes of opening its application portal.

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