North Jersey News Roundup for July 24, 2020

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli gave an update on how her department has implemented recommendations from the Manatt Health report the state received in June. Persichilli said the department will have put in place 17 of the 35 near-term recommendations by the end of July as it follows a three-stage approach installing the Manatt recommendations.  

A coronavirus cluster in Monmouth County has been linked to a party in Middletown in which about 20 young adults were infected with COVID-19. Those infected are between the ages of 15 and 19. The local health department said it was conducting contact tracing to narrow down the extent of the cluster, but responsiveness has been less than satisfactory as those contacted are refusing to answer questions.

Kean University outlined its plan for students to return to school this fall. The semester would start on Sept. 1 and begin with three weeks of remote learning, then enter a face-to-face hybrid phase featuring on-campus instruction to 30% of courses. After Thanksgiving break, all courses would go back to remote. News12 New Jersey

The state Senate Commerce committee unanimously voted for a bill to reduce sentences for some prisoners during a pandemic. The bipartisan approved program includes making sure victims are notified of an early release of the prisoner and receiving the option of blocking contact with a former inmate for the length of the original prison sentence.

Fewer than 26,000 new unemployment claims were filed for the week ending July 18, according to Labor Department data. Since mid-March, more than 1.4 million New Jersey workers have filed for unemployment benefits. Of those, 1.2 million were found eligible and 96% of those people have received at least one payment. News12 New Jersey

New Jersey is ahead of the curve when it comes to filling out the 2020 Census form. New Jersey ranks 20th for its response rate at 64.2%, compared with 62.3% of households nationally. Current county response rates in North Jersey are 73.6% in Morris, 70.3% in Bergen, 69.4% in Warren, 66.7% in Sussex, 62.7% in Passaic, 56.7% in Essex and 53.4% in Hudson.

The state Senate Commerce Committee and the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee advanced a measure to impose a state tax on health insurers. The $300 million raised through a 2.75% “health insurance assessment” would subsidize the cost of coverage for small businesses and individuals who buy their own policies as well as boosting a fund protecting insurers from extremely large claims. The Record

Small businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic in a few dozen New Jersey towns can apply to receive up to $10,000 in federal grants. The emergency commercial rent assistance program will disburse $6 million in federal CARES Act funding to small businesses that qualify in 64 municipalities. Gov. Phil Murphy said helps businesses as well as property owners who will be able to collect rent.

Gov. Phil Murphy dismissed criticism from Chris Christie on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey. Murphy responded to Chris Christie’s comments that the Murphy Administration prioritized public workers over the state’s small businesses and should have provided more money to the Economic Development Authority (EDA) to offer relief to small businesses. “Frankly, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry that he’s invoking the EDA…which was a piggy bank for special interests under his leadership, big companies at the absolute expense of small companies,” Murphy remarked.

Chris Christie’s lobbying firm pulled in $240,000 in less than three months attempting to secure coronavirus aid from the Trump administration . The company worked on behalf of three New Jersey hospital systems and a Tennessee-based chain of addiction treatment centers. PoliticoNJ

The New Jersey Attorney General is expected to ask a judge to give at least seven counties an extension to count votes for the July 7 primary election. The counties still have huge numbers of provisional ballots to count, including more than 17,000 in Monmouth and 14,000 in Middlesex, while in Bergen County, 385 of 754 cure letters mailed had been returned as of July 22. New Jersey Globe

The U.S. Postal Service said it cannot guarantee a specific delivery date or alter standards to comport with individual state election laws, predicting a high probability that some ballots would not be delivered prior to the Nov. 3 election. The USPS recommends election officials send, and voters request, ballots at least 15 days before an election; that voters mail their ballots at least a week before the due date; and that voters, if unsure, should ask about vote-by-mail deadlines. NJ Spotlight

Hoboken’s City Council overrode the mayor’s veto to approve a yearly $52 bicycle parking program. The bike program creates a permitting process for those who want to store their bicycles in designated areas within any city garage. The Jersey Journal

Jersey City is expanding its composting program with the launch of curbside pickup and the number of community drop-off locations citywide. The city is partnering with a company that’s composting the material and distributing the soil to landscapers, gardeners and anyone else who needs soil. 

And finally…It’s opening day for the New York Mets, as they take on the Atlanta Braves. The Record

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