North Jersey News Roundup for Oct. 16, 2020

State officials want New Jerseyans home for the holidays—and in as small of a group as possible due to increased cases of the coronavirus in the Garden State. “One thing we must be careful of are indoor gatherings, which are increasingly becoming a starting point for outbreaks,” said Gov. Phil Murphy during a press briefing Oct. 15. “It’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving and the broader holiday season. We urge everyone to take stock of how many people you may be inviting to your Thanksgiving table.”

Former Gov. Chris Christie stated he was “wrong” not to wear a mask at a Rose Garden event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House and in debate preparation sessions with President Donald Trump in his first statement since being discharged from the hospital to be treated for the coronavirus. Christie urged people to follow best practices, like mask wearing and social distancing, but argued there’s a middle ground between extensive, large-scale shutdowns and reopening cities and states without taking proper precautions. The New York Times

President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee Joe Biden held separate televised town hall’s at the same time Oct. 15. A combative President Trump promoted his accomplishments during the first term while speaking positively about extremist conspiracy-theory group QAnon, expressed skepticism about mask-wearing, rebuked his own F.B.I. director and attacked the legitimacy of vote-by-mail during his hour town hall. Biden’s 90 minute appearance featured discussions with voters on his plans for the economy, healthcare and how he would handle schools and businesses hampered by the coronavirus. The Record

Democrats in New Jersey are returning ballots at rates outpacing Republicans in some of the state’s most conservative strongholds. In Sussex County, more than 39% of Democrats had returned ballots by Oct. 14, compared with 24% of Republicans. The New York Times

On Nov. 3, New Jersey is one of four states where voters will decide on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Advocates have pushed for legalization for years, saying it would create jobs, increase tax revenue and end long-running disparities in marijuana arrests. Opponents believe it could jeopardize public safety and argue for decriminalization rather than legalization.

More than 800,000 New Jersey workers will begin seeing federal unemployment benefits deposited as a lump sum in their bank accounts early next week. Workers who received at least $100 in unemployment benefits during the weeks ending Aug. 1 to Sept. 5 may be eligible for a payment of $300 a week for up to six weeks. Meanwhile, another 29,029 people filed new in employment claims last week.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order extending New Jersey’s moratorium on utility shut offs through March 15, 2021. In homes where children attending school remotely, internet shut offs will be banned until as. The moratorium on internet and phone service disconnection is being extended for other residents until Nov. 15. The order does not cover commercial enterprises. The Daily Record

Nearly a dozen New Jersey-based companies are pledging to hire 30,000 workers over the next decade, focusing on people from historically underrepresented communities that are now being hurt disproportionately by the coronavirus pandemic. In an appearance with Gov. Phil Murphy, nine CEOs pledged to hire workers incrementally by 2030 and spend $250 million on contracts focusing on diverse distributors in the next five years.

As closures at New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) due to the coronavirus are mounting, a North Jersey lawmaker believes unresolved issues are systemic at the agency. State Sen. Anthony Bucco cited persistent lines and poor customer service as indicators of deeper problems at NJMVC, arguing “It is painfully obvious that customer service is buried low on NJMVC’s list of priorities, and New Jersey residents deserve better.”

Tax collections in New Jersey continue to trail last year’s despite some signs of an improving economic outlook. The state Department of Treasury’s tax-collection report for September indicates total monthly revenues from the Garden State’s major tax sources were down by a little more than 4% compared to the same month last year. NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey schools will be able to tap into monies from the state to address infrastructure issues on their campuses. The Murphy Administration recently unveiled the availability of grant applications for school security, water infrastructure improvements, and enhancement of career and technical education in county vocational-technical school districts and county colleges across the Garden State. The grants will be supported by $500 million in bonds authorized by the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, approved by New Jersey voters in November 2018.

Lawyers for the state of New Jersey were in court Oct. 15 in the case where a Sussex County gym owner is seeking damages for Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus lockdown. The state Attorney General’s Office filed a 15-page legal brief arguing the case should go forward in an appellate court in Trenton, while the Franklin Borough gym owner wants the lawsuit reinstated in Sussex County for a judgement that Murphy unconstitutionally shut down her business. New Jersey Herald

Fairleigh Dickinson University announced an off-campus party was the source of a recent outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases at the Metropolitan Campus. Administrators stated there were at least four new cases at the Metropolitan grounds located in Teaneck and Hackensack, bring the total among on-campus students to six and 11 cases among off-campus students. News12 New Jersey

Pascack Valley High School alerted parents that the school building will be closed on Oct. 16 due to a student who contracted COVID-19 over the weekend and was in close contact with other students. Health officials advised the school to operate remotely while a thorough contact tracing effort is underway. The school canceled extracurricular activities for Friday with a decision on weekend activities to be made Oct. 16. The Record

North Bergen High School will switch to remote learning after a faculty member who has tested positive for the COVID-19. The district’s superintendent said the school will conduct classes remotely on Oct. 16 and possibly into next week. The Record

And finally…A New Jersey plumber and HVAC contractor hit a $1.3 million jackpot last weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

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