New Jersey restaurants are set to get $35 million in relief after a year of struggling to stay afloat under coronavirus restrictions.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation (A5444) April 9, providing $35 million in federal coronavirus relief aid for the beleaguered industry. A day earlier, Murphy signed legislation (S3521) providing $15 million in federal aid another hard-hit sector of New Jersey’s economy—arts and cultural venues. Both bills are part of a $100 million relief package aimed at aiding small businesses throughout the Garden State.
“Our restaurants and bars and breweries and wineries are a critical part of our state, our economy, and our culture,” Murphy said at a press conference in Atlantic City after touring Bourré, an industrial-themed New Orleans pub there. “These are not just small businesses. These are places where communities come together, and which also help define a community.”
‘Much-Needed’ Help on the Menu
Dana Lancellotti, president and CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, described the restaurant legislation’s funding as “very important and much-needed.”
“The assistance will help an industry that has suffered tremendously since 2020,” she said at the press conference.
The restaurant industry is New Jersey’s largest private sector employer, “representing over 300,000 jobs in normal times,” Lancellotti said.
“We have seen these restaurant small business owners and employees experience a devastating blow in this past year. One-third of our food service establishments in New Jersey closed since COVID hit and we know that many will not come back,” she added.
Second Dish of Federal Dollars
Murphy described the past year as “extremely challenging” for restaurants as well. He said the $35 million represents a doubling of an initial $35 million in federal aid given to the industry last Fall. Restaurants still need “a lot more” help, the governor added, moments before signing the legislation.
“We’re not out of this yet. Margins for our restaurants—if they’re positive at all—remain razor thin, and the added support that this law provides will help more of them keep their doors open and their kitchens running,” Murphy said.
The restaurant relief aid will be administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) in the form of grants that do not need to be repaid. To date, the NJEDA has distributed more than $250 million in aid to some 55,000 businesses across the state, the governor’s office said in a press release.
Under current coronavirus rules, New Jersey restaurants are permitted to operate at 50% of indoor capacity.
The bipartisan bill’s primary sponsors included State Sen. Joseph Lagana (D-38) and Assemblyman Christopher Tully (D-38) for a bill to help a New Jersey industry prior to the pandemic boasted more than 19,000 food and beverage establishments, employing nearly 8% of workers in the state.
“Mom and pop restaurants and bars have always been keystones in our communities, creating multigenerational traditions and shaping neighborhoods. Sadly, many of these institutions have been forced to close or suffered greatly over the last year,” said Lagana. “With this grant funding, we are giving beloved small businesses an opportunity to get through the hard times, hire workers and remain an integral part of their community.”
Arts Get Boost
The $15 million in federal grant funds for arts organizations will help these venues bring back staff, hire crew, support new artists, host shows and performances, and expand programming and events, according to New Jersey’s Secretary of State, Tahesha Way. Way’s department includes the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, which will jointly administer the funds along with the EDA.
The bill makes available $7.5 million to the EDA for for-profit organizations and $7.5 million to the State Council on the Arts for non-profit organizations.
New Jersey’s artists and arts “have weathered revenue losses in the hundreds of millions due to the pandemic-related closures, cancellations, refunds and more,” Way said at a press conference at the West End Arts Center in Long Branch where Murphy signed the federal arts funding bill.
‘Tremendous’ Economic Driver’
Murphy said at the event that the arts are “a tremendous economic driver of our downtowns,” given that art patrons often shop and/or dine out before or after seeing a play, attending a concert or visiting an art exhibit.
Additionally, the arts sector creates a lot of jobs in New Jersey—80,000 in 2019 alone, according to Way.
“Tens of thousands of artists and arts sector workers are now unemployed or underemployed,” Way said. “Yet at the same time artists and their work have been integral for many of us as we cope with the upheaval of living through this ongoing public health crisis.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 5,738,371 as of April 15. Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,644,419 residents have received their first dose with 2,334,968 receiving their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose; 52% have been administered the Pfizer vaccine, 44% the Moderna vaccine and 4% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Demographically, 53% of those vaccinated are women and 47% men. As for ethnicity, 57% are White, 10% other, 9% unknown, 9% Hispanic, 9% Asian and 6% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 38% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 25% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 643,942 doses, Essex 442,672 doses, Morris 400,715 doses, Hudson 345,347 doses, Passaic 264,894 doses, Sussex 88,618 doses, and Warren 57,500 doses.
As of April 15, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 848,566 with 3,411 total new PCR cases reported. There were 739 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 118,733. The total number of individual cases for the state is 967,299. Gov. Murphy previously noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 47 new deaths, bringing that total to 22,461. The state listed probable deaths at 2,592, bringing the overall total to 25,053. State officials noted 30 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on April 15, Bergen had a total of 320 new confirmed cases and 74 probable cases, Essex 454 new cases and 67 probable cases, Hudson 273 new cases and 48 probable cases, Morris 161 new cases and 46 probable cases, Passaic 420 new cases and 43 probable cases, Sussex 62 new cases and 31 probable cases, and Warren 51 cases and 13 new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,546, followed by Bergen at 2,488, Hudson with 1,973, Passaic at 1,634, Morris at 951, Sussex at 222 and Warren County at 205.
In regards to probable deaths reported April 14, Bergen has 294, Essex has 291, Morris has 246, Hudson has 206, Passaic has 195, Sussex has 67 and Warren has 25.
As for the rate of transmission, it remained unchanged from the day before at 0.92. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of April 10, was 11.0%; by region, the rate was 11.0% in the North, 10.9% in the Central region and 11.4% in the South.
Officials reported 2,261 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,139 in the North, 706 in the Central and 416 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 460 are in intensive care units and 251 on ventilators. A total of 297 patients were discharged, while 277 were admitted.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospilizations, intensive care units, ventilators and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 85,113, followed by Essex at 82,633, Middlesex at 81,983, Hudson at 76,100, Monmouth at 64,734, Ocean at 63,070, Passaic at 61,768, Union at 57,648, Camden at 45,664, Morris at 40,425, Burlington at 36,335, Mercer at 30,260, Gloucester at 24,874, Atlantic at 23,686, Somerset at 23,067, Cumberland at 13,737, Sussex at 10,842, Hunterdon at 8,294, Warren at 8,247, Salem at 5,034, and Cape May at 4,329.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 12,370, followed by Union at 10,288, Ocean at 9,483, Essex at 8,771, Hudson at 8,498, Monmouth at 7,561, Morris at 7,526, Middlesex at 6,943, Passaic at 6,765, Atlantic at 6,347, Burlington at 6,039, Camden at 5,991, Somerset at 5,418, Cape May at 4,338, Gloucester at 3,713, Cumberland at 2,197, Mercer at 2,167, Sussex at 2,064, Warren at 927, Hunterdon at 819 and Salem 508.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 245 outbreaks involving 1,070 cases have been reported, with five new outbreaks accounting for 24 cases in the weekly update on April 14.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 52 confirmed outbreaks with 198 cases, Passaic County has 15 confirmed outbreaks with 50 cases, Warren has 14 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Sussex has 12 confirmed outbreaks with 48 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has four confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 235 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 6,848 of the cases, broken down between 3,032 residents and 3,816 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,382 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,701 residents and 21,807 staff, for a total of 54,508 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,006 on April 15. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,860 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.