shopping mall

NJ Indoor Malls Set to Open June 29 as State Unemployment Increases Again

Indoor shopping malls will reopen June 29, Gov. Phil Murphy said at today’s state press conference, lifting a ban that began March 17 and offering a ray of hope for mall retailers devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. The massive American Dream mall in Bergen County, for example, had just opened in the fall after years of planning, and was immediately hobbled as its county became a national – if not global – COVID-19 hotspot.

An array of rules and regulations surround indoor malls’ reopening, with, for example, these entities slated to have dedicated entrance-only and exit-only points to prevent customers from brushing past each other, and their food courts, movie theaters, arcades and other common areas are to remain off-limits to the public. Businesses within the malls will be subjected to the same rules and regulations as other retail establishments, such as limiting customer capacity to 50%.

And while indoor mall restaurants with proprietary entrances to the outside have been permitted to offer takeout and delivery service in the pandemic, those located within food courts, for example, have suffered more; the June 29 order offers malls an option for eateries to serve outdoor meals.

Murphy said overall, “Certainly, malls are part of New Jersey culture and lore, I think as much here if not more so than any other American state. We want these businesses to get back up and running, responsibly and safely, and we ask everyone who wishes to head out to the mall to comply with the requirements in place: Keep you distance, wear a face covering and follow pedestrian directions.”

Unemployment Woes

The coronavirus and its resulting economic impact continues to decimate New Jersey’s employment scenario, with another 26,392 residents filing for unemployment benefits for the week ending June 13, creating a cumulative total of 1,241,559 unemployment filings since March 15, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced today. The state has disbursed $7.2 billion in unemployment benefits ($2.4 billion in state benefits and $4.8 billion in federal unemployment benefits).

This means that 28% of New Jersey’s entire labor force has applied for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, a staggering number that neither reflects undocumented immigrants adversely affected by the pandemic, nor business owners or medical professionals who – while technically “employed” – have seen demand for their services crater to near idleness.

And although the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics released at least some data showing that jobs might be returning, the scenario remains murky because its survey was taken before May 12 – prior to New Jersey’s economy beginning to reopen. The actual demand for employees, and associated goods and services within New Jersey appears unclear at this time.

Public Health Update

New Jersey remains among the top five states for COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and new cases, although public health metrics here are improving. According to today’s state data, just 1,268 New Jerseyans were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of yesterday, with only 319 in intensive care; 73 new hospitalizations were reported yesterday as 134 live patients left hospitals. However, another 38 new fatalities were reported for a statewide cumulative death toll of 12,800 thus far.

Murphy added that the state has COVID-19 testing capacity, but “…We just need you [to get tested]. And the more data we get, the better off we will be in determining our steps forward through Stage 2, and when we can enter Stage 3.”

DACA and the United States Supreme Court

Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful.

Murphy praised the ruling at today’s press conference, and also released a statement which reads, in part, “We applaud the Court’s ruling to protect the more than 800,000 Dreamers across our country who are just as American as any child born here.”

It also reads, “As our state continues to face unprecedented challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Dreamers are directly contributing to our communities – as students, entrepreneurs, taxpayers, employees, job creators, and front line workers. We celebrate their contributions and remain committed to supporting them and their families.”

The statement concludes, “Our Dreamers are a strong part of our New Jersey family, and today’s decision will help ensure that they can be part of the next generation of Americans who will lead our state and our nation.”

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