By ERIN ROLL
New Jersey will be making $50 million in federal aid available to small businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, May 15, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the state will provide $50 million in CARES Act funding to small businesses.
This is in addition to the grant and loan programs for small businesses that are already being offered, or had been offered but are now closed, by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority this spring. The five programs advertised by the EDA offered a total of $3,050,000 in grants for qualifying businesses and entrepreneurs
The application process and the grant requirements for the funding will be announced at a later date, Murphy said.
This week, non-essential retail businesses were given permission to open back up on Monday, but for curbside delivery only, two months after all non-essential businesses were ordered to close.
Sixty percent of New Jersey’s workforce is employed with small businesses around the state, Murphy said..
Even with the CARES Act funds, Murphy said, much more aid and assistance is needed from the federal government.
New Jersey is also receiving $1.4 billion in federal aid for NJ Transit.
“We need another big slug of federal money,” Murphy said. “They can print money. We can’t.”
After suspending elective surgeries in March, New Jersey is now giving permission for health care providers to resume offering elective surgeries. The Department of Health suspended the surgeries so that resources, including personal protective equipment, could be reserved for urgent care hospitals. But with new hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients dropping 66 percent since the mid-April peak, officials feel confident in allowing patients and doctors to proceed with surgeries put off during the pandemic.
Murphy said that the announcement was the next step, following the resumption of non-essential construction and the gradual reopening of small retail businesses, in getting New Jersey to a new normal status.
In February, Murphy underwent surgery to remove a tumor on his kidney, which turned out to be malignant. That surgery would have been classified as an elective surgery. If it had been scheduled for a week later, and he said his doctor told him it would have been postponed.
Murphy said the term “elective” was perhaps a bit misleading. “Elective surgery makes it sound like a bunch of people who want to get a nose job lined up,” he said.
The state is investigating 17 suspected cases of pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children ranging in age from 3 to 18. Initially, the state had been investigating 18 cases, but one suspected case turned out to be negative, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
Persichilli said that seven of the children had tested positive for pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and of those seven, six tested positive for SARS CO-V-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
On Friday, New Jersey reported 1,297 new positive COVID-19 cases, up from 1,216 reported on Thursday, bringing the state total to 143,905 cases.
New Jersey has passed the 10,000 mark in fatalities due to complications with the virus, as the state death toll reaches 10,138.
Friday saw 201 additional deaths be reported, down from the 244 reported on Thursday.
“Think about that for a second. That is a staggering number,” Murphy said.
Hudson County has now surpassed Bergen County with the highest number of cases at 17,232, ahead of the 17,179 in Bergen County. Murphy noted that the gap between the two counties had been narrowing over several weeks.
However, Essex County continues to lead with the highest number of fatalities at 1,510, according to state data.
As of 10 p.m. on Thursday, 3,823 people were in the hospital, of whom 1,127 were in critical care and 865 were on ventilators. Hospitals saw 285 new hospitalizations and 357 live discharges.
On Wednesday, hospitals reported 3,958 total patients in the hospital, including 1,157 in critical care, and 898 on ventilators. That day saw 171 new admissions and 366 discharges.
Montclair township officials reported 393 cases and 47 deaths on Thursday. Friday’s numbers were not yet available. Essex County officials reported 130 new cases and 20 new deaths, bringing the totals to 16,103 cases and 1,520 deaths as of 9 a.m. Friday.
New Jersey’s primary elections will be vote by mail this summer.
Murphy announced Friday that all registered Democratic and Republican voters will automatically receive a postage paid ballot in the mail ahead of the July 7 primaries.
In addition, the time period in which ballots need to be counted will be extended. Under current guidelines, a ballot must be counted within 48 hours of the polls closing. For the primaries, the ballot will be counted within seven days of the polls closing.
Each county will also provide a limited number of in-person polling stations, for voters who cannot vote by mail due to disability reasons or other reasons, Murphy said. But social distancing will have to be maintained at polling places, and poll workers will have to ensure that touch screens, voting machines and other high-touch places are regularly wiped down.
Montclair held its municipal elections, the first to be held via vote by mail, on May 12.