North Jersey News Roundup for April 27, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the easing of restrictions for a variety of activities and higher outdoor capacity limits, effective May 10. The changes, which include higher outdoor gathering limits, higher large venue outdoor capacities, and higher maximum capacities for private catered events come as health metrics are on the decline and as more New Jerseyans continue to receive COVID-19 vaccines. “We are doing this both because we are expecting the downward trend to continue over the next two weeks and because we want to give businesses the ability to plan ahead and fully prepare,” Murphy said at a press briefing April 26. “Looking at the trend in our numbers over the past weeks, we fully expect to continue our streak of announcing expansions and sticking to them.”

The New Jersey rate of compliance for the second COVID-19 vaccine dose is slightly better than the national average, according to state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. Ninety one percent of New Jerseyans who received a first dose came back for their second dose at the recommended three or four week interval. And 93% of people got their second shots within six weeks of getting the first.

Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey is slowing a bit even with more appointments now available to the public, according to state officials. As a result, the state has launched a vaccination promotional advertising campaign to all audiences who are now eligible to help move them to take action. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Health is partnering with church leaders and community leaders to create pop-up community vaccination events to bring the vaccine closer to where people are.

Drew University has become the latest college in New Jersey requiring students to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus this Fall. Exemptions will be extended to students who are doing courses completely online as well as for religious and medical reasons. Drew joins Montclair State University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey City University and Rutgers University in requiring COVID-19 vaccines in some capacity. News12 New Jersey

The Small Business Administration will begin accepting applications May 3 for a $29 billion grant program aimed at boosting the restaurant industry. The program, officially known as the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, is the first federal pandemic aid exclusively for restaurants, bars and other food-service businesses. It was authorized by Congress as part of its $1.9 trillion coronavirus-aid package that became law in March, and will be a key source of aid to an industry that has been hard hit by the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal

A Wildwood bar will be barred from serving alcohol this Summer for more executive order violations of the state-mandated coronavirus restrictions, just a few months after it reopened from previous suspension. Shamrock Beef and Ale will be stopped from serving alcohol from May 1 through Sept. 30 under a settlement between the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and Tommy G’s Shamrock, LLC, the entity that holds the bar’s liquor license, announced Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal April 26. Two other venues that operate under the license at the property, Castaway’s Pirate Bar and Club Amnesia, will also be barred from serving alcohol during the same period.

Americans strongly support President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan by a 68%-29% margin, according to a new Monmouth University poll. Biden’s American Jobs Plan gets approval from Democrats (94%), Independents (69%), but the plan is upside-down at 32%-63% among Republicans. A majority of women (74%) and men (62%) support the infrastructure proposal, as do 61% of whites and 84% of people of color. New Jersey Globe

Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are “on a mission” to see that New Jersey gets its fair share of President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan and will work for its passage, with or without bipartisan cooperation. Sen. Menendez stated restoring the federal deduction for state and local property taxes won’t be a negotiating point to get the infrastructure plan passed. “It is not negotiable. We should have what is one of the oldest deductions in the tax code,” Menendez said. “New Jersey is a blue chip maker state that gives more to the federal treasury than it receives. There are other moocher states that get billions of dollars more than they give.”

President Joe Biden will propose giving the Internal Revenue Service an extra $80 billion and more authority over the next 10 years to help crack down on tax evasion by high-earners and large corporations. The Biden administration will portray those efforts, coupled with new taxes it is proposing on corporations and the super rich, as a way to level the tax playing field between typical American workers and very high-earners who employ sophisticated efforts to minimize or avoid taxation. In turn, the President will use money raised by the effort to help pay for the cost of his American Families Plan. The New York Times

New Jersey’s population grew by almost 500,000 people in the last decade, enough for the state to keep all 12 of its congressional seats, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released April 26. The 2020 Census put the state’s population at 9,288,994, up 497,100, or 6%, over the 2010 figure of 8,791,894. New Jersey remains the 11th most populous state, ahead of Virginia, which has 8,631,393 people. The Record

Frank Pallotta announced plans to again be the Republican nominee in 2022 for the 5th Congressional District.  Pallotta, who lost to Rep. Josh Gottheimer last year, said “It’s time to replace (Gottheimer) with someone who has the courage to represent the citizens of the 5th District. In the coming months, I hope to demonstrate that I am that person.”

Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone recently reintroduced a bill to hold polluters responsible for the cleanup of contaminated Superfund sites in New Jersey and across the country. The Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act reinstates and indexes for inflation the excise tax on polluting industries to pay for the cleanup of Superfund sites, relieving taxpayers of the expense. The bill expands the definition of crude oil in order to make oil from tar sands and shale subject to the excise tax. Additionally, it makes funds available to the Environmental Protection Agency on an ongoing basis. These funds are not subject to annual appropriations.

Hoboken will join the Resilient Northeastern New Jersey initiative which seeks to build upon ongoing resilience work and provide a clear roadmap for improving regional environmental and economic resiliency by reducing flood risk. The coalition is composed of area stakeholders, including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Jersey City, Newark, Bayonne, Hudson County, Ironbound Community Corporation, HOPES Community Assistance Partnership, and project consultant Arcadis. Hudson Reporter

State Sens. Kristin Corrado and Loretta Weinberg called on the Department of Labor and the Murphy Administration to open up unemployment offices for in-person sessions as a growing number of New Jersey residents are having their unemployment benefits locked. Corrado (R-40) shared accounts of applicants saying claims have been flagged as fraudulent. After this flagging, they are asked to prove their identities online—but without in-person access, they are being directed to a non-functioning online system. “The Department of Labor has bragged about identifying more than a quarter million fraudulent unemployment claims,” said Corrado. “I’m afraid some, maybe most of them are being held up without merit.”

New Jersey saw its third-highest rate of antisemitic incidents in 2020 with a total of 295 incidents, according to an annual Anti-Defamation League report. In the first quarter of 2020, antisemitic incidents rose 85% compared to the same timeframe in 2019 with a 33% drop in incidents for the rest of the year after social distancing rules were put in place. Ocean County saw the highest number of incidents, with 51 incidents reported.

And finally…A recently recorded live Bon Jovi performance will be broadcast to more than 300 drive-in and indoor theaters across North America on May 22.

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