North Jersey News Roundup for July 22, 2020

President Donald Trump acknowledged the coronavirus pandemic was growing more severe in the United States and endorsed mask wearing in a shift after weeks of playing down the seriousness of the crisis that has killed more than 140,000 Americans. The president conceded that there were now “big fires,” particularly in Florida and across the South and West and vowed to press a “relentless” campaign to curb the spread. The New York Times

The House of Representatives recently passed the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR) of 2020, making public safety officers who contract COVID-19 in the line of duty eligible for benefits for their families should they become disabled or die from the virus. SAFR establishes a temporary presumption that COVID-19 infections will be considered to be contracted while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of an officer’s last shift. The legislation ensures families of officers and first responders lost or disabled while fighting the pandemic don’t face unnecessary barriers to benefits they’ve already been promised.

Gov. Phil Murphy again called on Congress to provide more direct aid to states and local governments across the U.S. in order to avoid deep spending cuts to education, healthcare programs, first responders and more in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Murphy’s comments came hours after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell excluded state and local aid as priorities in the next coronavirus stimulus legislation. “If Congress does not give states the direct relief we need to shore up our budgets, it will do untold damage to our economies and undermine our response to COVID-19,” Murphy said in a statement released by the Democratic Governors Association.

A bipartisan bill to provide reimbursements to restaurants, bars and caterers that spent money for supplies in preparation of indoor dining was introduced in the state Senate. Co-sponsored by State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25), the legislation would fund the reimbursements by appropriating $30 million from the Economic Development Authority from federal block grants allocated under the CARES Act.

Chris Christie is criticizing Gov. Phil Murphy for not doing enough for N.J. small businesses. The former governor accused Murphy of prioritizing public workers over the state’s small businesses in deciding how to distribute state resources in reaction to the pandemic. Christie has raised close to $800,000 for New Jersey 30-Day Fund, a nonprofit he started that gives $3,000 forgivable loans to small businesses struggling to remain open amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Yoga studios can hold indoor classes because they are not considered to be fitness centers like traditional gyms. Yoga studios are not licensed as health clubs like other gyms, so they are considered recreational facilities. Recreation facilities can operate indoors at 25% capacity as long as there is social distancing and everyone wears masks. News12 New Jersey

Bergen County has launched the Food Security Task Force to combat a hunger crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new task force aims to connect wide-ranging organizations in a collaborative effort to fight food insecurity within the county. The Record

An Assembly committee passed a plan to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey’s prisons due to overcrowding. The proposed legislation would require public health emergency credits to be awarded to help expedite the release of inmates who are approaching the end of their sentences during a public health emergency. Hudson Reporter

New Jersey added 10 states and removed one from its coronavirus quarantine travel advisory, bringing the list to 31 states that qualify as COVID-19 hotspots. Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia and Washington were added this week, while Minnesota was removed. Delaware returned to the list after being dropped last week. The quarantine applies to any state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average. The Daily Record

President Donald Trump wants to ban undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census. The President signed a memorandum asking the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, to collect data on undocumented immigrants—but only so Trump can remove that data from population totals in the final census count. The memo argued it is “the President’s discretion to settle the apportionment” of House members. PoliticoNJ

Joe Biden offered a plan to create 3 million jobs and improve care for children and the elderly. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee promised to spend $775 billion over 10 years to increase tax credits for low-income families, bolster care-giving services for veterans and other seniors and provide preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. News12 New Jersey

The Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office will be hosting a webinar to address questions and concerns residents may have about the current use of force policy by law enforcement. The online town hall will be held July 27, where county prosecutor Francis Koch will convey information to the public about the current policy and what suggestions may be made to adjust it. New Jersey Herald

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Sparta had the right to assess property owners for the rehabilitation of a private dam owner by a beach club. The state Department of Environmental Protection required The Glen Lake Beach Club to repair and rehabilitate the dam in 2002. Sparta officials agreed to guarantee a loan that would be paid back through a special assessment. Eight property owners filed suit fighting the assessment.  New Jersey Globe

And finally…See a humpback whale swim with dolphins just off the Jersey Shore.

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