As COVID-19 continues to strain the resources of many New Jersey residents, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the signing today of an executive order extending the moratorium on utility shutoffs for nonpayment through March 15, 2021. The order also prohibits the disconnection of Internet or voice service through November 15. For households with school-age children who need Internet connectivity for remote learning, that date is extended through March 15, 2021.
“Our message to residents is clear: As this pandemic and economic fallout continues, we will continue to have your back,” Murphy said at today’s COVID-19 briefing.
He also announced an additional $15 million in utility assistance programs in the new state budget for qualified families. “As the winter months get closer and closer, no one should fear losing the ability to heat their home. “
This announcement comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in New Jersey in key metrics such as total hospitalizations, patients in ICUs, and ventilators in use. Murphy said these increases have been carried for better than a week, pointing to “hot spots” like Ocean, Bergen and Essex counties with more than 100 new cases reported this week – among almost 1,000 new cases and six fatalities statewide.
The Department of Labor’s latest unemployment figures also showed an uptick over the last week, with just over 29,000 New Jersey residents filing an initial claim, an increase of roughly 5,500 from last week. Murphy had some good news for those whose unemployment is COVID-related, announcing a new $300-per-week FEMA Lost Wages Assistance Program that will help an estimated 800,000 New Jersey workers.
“This is another great example of why we need more robust sufficient federal funds,” he said. “It’s not just for state and local governments. It’s for folks who are unemployed who need that bridge to a better future that we all know is coming – but for now it’s hard.”
In addition, Murphy reminded New Jersey citizens the deadline to respond to the 2020 Census is midnight tonight, emphasizing this is the last chance for the next 10 years to make sure every resident is counted.
“The census means so much for New Jersey,” he said. “Our representation in Congress rides on a complete count, as does our ability to receive billions of dollars in federal funds for our public schools, our healthcare network, our transportation and mass transit systems, our communities and so much more.”
Other noteworthy takeaways from today’s briefing were:
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