Gov. Phil Murphy announced his administration will not extend unemployment benefits to about a half million resident in New Jersey, stating it was “cost prohibitive” and would draw funds needed for other essential programs as the state continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Murphy made the announcement at a press briefing on Aug. 30, just days before the Sept. 4 expiration date for three unemployment programs. The governor’s decision goes against President Joe Biden’s recommendation that states allocate COVID relief funds to extend the program. New Jersey received $6.2 billion in federal funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP).
“The proper way to extend federal (unemployment insurance) benefits is through federal action, not a patchwork of state ones,” said Murphy, in a move that affects approximately 500,000 state residents according to state labor department estimates.
End of Extra $300
The decision by the Murphy Administration affects recipients in three unemployment insurance programs. About 250,000 New Jerseyans are currently receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), providing benefits to people who wouldn’t normally qualify for traditional unemployment such as gig workers and the self-employed.
Another 190,000 people will lose the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which adds 13 weeks of benefits for people who exhaust their regular payments. But approximately 100,000 people will be moved onto a different extended benefit program, according to state’s Labor Department officials.
Finally, recipients will no longer receive the $300 per week supplemental payment. That payment had been a political lightning rod as critics, including business owners, said it tightened the labor force market and forced them to raise wages as they attempt to recover from business lost over the past 18 months.
Murphy said the cost to the state to continue the three programs at current levels would be approximately $1 billion a month.
State officials estimated it would cost New Jersey $314 million per week as a baseline that could grow to hundreds of millions of dollars more to extend the benefits. Extending PUA would cost about $70 million to $161 million a week, PEUC would cost an estimated $77 million to $124 million and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation could run between $168 million to nearly $300 million a week.
The governor noted New Jersey is not alone in making this decision.
No Extensions in U.S.
“We recognize the impact that this will have on some families facing unemployment issues,” said Murphy. “But no state is extending the benefit expiring this Saturday.”
The first-term governor has been criticized by Republicans for not using enough ARP money to help residents of the Garden State.
Murphy sought to refute that argument, highlighting that his administration has funded programs for those “suffering through the economic impacts of the pandemic (investing) in rent-assistance, food-assistance, child-care assistance, health-care affordability assistance, and other assistance programs we have set up and which are funded through billions of dollars of federal coronavirus relief programs.”
Using ARP Funds
In making the decision, the Murphy Administration has decided to prioritize using ARP funds to support small businesses and start-ups.
“We cannot crowd out essential investments in other areas including for the assistance programs I mentioned, as well as for our schools and colleges and universities,” said Murphy. “We must ensure that we are appropriating these funds judiciously for the greatest possible long term recovery.”
New Jersey’s unemployment rate is currently 7.3%, down from the 16.6% high reached in April 2020. New Jersey is tied for the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, behind Nevada, New York, New Mexico and California.
Since the start of the pandemic, New Jersey has distributed $33.7 billion worth of jobless benefits, $25 billion of which came from new federal programs.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 11,084,973 in-state, plus an additional 405,030 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 11,490,003 as of Aug. 30. Of those who have received the vaccine, 5,399,596 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 174,999 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 5,574,595.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,243,995 doses (608,559 fully vaccinated), Essex 950,138 doses (456,033), Hudson 865,509 doses (414,821), Morris 678,367 doses (330,927), Passaic 591,263 doses (284,866), Sussex 159,050 doses (78,696), and Warren 103,379 doses (50,675).
As of Aug. 30, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 950,175 with 1,327 total new PCR cases reported. There were 280 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 139,663. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,089,838.
As for those that have passed, the state reported eight confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 24,133. The state listed probable deaths at 2,731, bringing the overall total to 26,864. State officials noted 12 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Aug. 30, Bergen had a total of 116 new confirmed cases and 25 new probable cases, Essex 49 new cases and 14 new probable case, Hudson 85 new cases and 12 new probable cases, Morris 42 new confirmed cases and 28 new probable cases, Passaic 71 new cases and 15 new probable case, Sussex 29 new cases and 11 new probable cases, and Warren 31 new cases and no new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,767, followed by Bergen at 2,616, Hudson with 2,123, Passaic at 1,758, Morris at 990, Sussex at 245, and Warren County at 217.
In regards to probable deaths reported Aug. 30, Essex has 306, Bergen has 304, Morris has 260, Hudson has 222, Passaic has 203, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
Of the 5,175,016 fully vaccinated individuals studied as of Aug. 15, 12,242 New Jersey residents have tested positive for COVID who were fully vaccinated, resulting in 307 COVID-related hospitalizations and 68 COVID-related deaths.
In the last week, breakthroughs accounted for 12.5% of all new cases (1,637 of 13,118), 3.8% of new hospilizations (31 of 807), and none of the 36 deaths—the fourth week in a row of no deaths from those fully vaccinated.
As for the rate of transmission reported Aug. 30, it declined to 1.11 from 1.13 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested Aug. 26 was 5.2%; by region, the rate was 4.6% in the North, 5.3% in the Central region and 6.2% in the South.
The state reported 1,034 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 400 in the North, 307 in the Central and 327 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 209 are in intensive care units and 107 on ventilators. A total of 104 patients were discharged.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, 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.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 133 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 850 of the cases, broken down between 449 residents and 401 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,635 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 33,267 residents and 22,648 staff, for a total of 55,915.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,463 on Aug. 30. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,905 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.
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