From the Desk of the Mayor
Harrison Township, New Jersey
March 21, 2020
Dear Resident and Business Owners:
Governor Murphy issued an Executive Order effective tonight, March 21st, at 9 PM that basically is telling all 9 million New Jersey residents to stay home. In fact, he referred to it as a “stay at home” order, as opposed to “shelter at home” directive, which has been used in other states. For an explanation of his order that includes a list of those exempted businesses, like grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations, <click here>.
This is the escalation we expected and a further dose of reality to anyone seeking to minimize the severity of the COVID-19 crisis. We are in a ground-zero area based on our proximity to New York City and State, which has the most confirmed cases of the virus in our country. New Jersey is the 4th most-impacted state statistically after California and Washington (2nd & 3rd). In the coming days as testing capability increases, we should expect to see more confirmed cases. It’s been pointed out that this can be misleading, related to the actual spreading of the virus; which the numbers indicate is increasing exponentially. But those increases actually correlate to the number of tests being taken, which is more and more each day. So, it can be confusing. Here’s what isn’t confusing: We all need to take this very seriously and self-quarantine, as much as possible, for the next couple weeks.
This is a difficult adjustment and we all have different versions of these hardships and inconveniences. But there is always a way to deal with it or work around it. Our local doctors are giving us a path to interact with them as needed thru virtual visits and telehealth resources. Call or check your healthcare provider’s website for these options, as several doctors have conveyed this accommodation to me recently.
INSIGHTS FROM SENATORS BOOKER & MENENDEZ
The daily conference calls continue as we stay connected to the County’s guidance and updates. Today, I also sat in on a 90-minute conference call with NJ Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez that they held specifically for NJ Mayors; more than 250 Mayors listened in and participated in the Q&A. They provided insight into the negotiations playing out in Washington DC that we see reported on the national cable news channels. It was very informative and dare I say, I was encouraged by what I heard. Clearly, this federal package is still being hammered out, but they gave some details that indicated “help is on the way.”
Senators Booker and Menendez described two targeted sides of this equation that will receive relief: the small business owner who can’t operate his/her business and the employee of a company who gets laid off from their job. This Federal Rescue Package (as it’s being called) is seeking to have the Small Business Association (SBA) consider issuing forgivable loans in addition to standard loans and grants. That is unprecedented. Separate from that, the first wave of the federal assistance already includes a freeze on College Loan payments, but the current discussions include some partial forgiveness of outstanding loans.
The plan includes some expansion of Unemployment Insurance eligibility and additional extensions through the end of 2020. There is discussion of allowing self-employed (1099) workers to be eligible to receive Unemployment Insurance benefits, which has never happened before. All this in addition to “checks” to pay bills in the short term that are being discussed in the media. Most importantly, Washington is seeking to eliminate all red tape and expedite the implementation of this “largest federal rescue program” ever. So, pay attention to the news as next week commences. The Senators say they will finalize this process by then.
NEW DECISIONS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL
On the local level, we closed our township buildings to the public a week ago. Starting Monday, all municipal employees (except Police Officers) will be on a week-to-week “stay home” policy. Our administrative leadership will monitor voicemails and public questions, as needed. We have a plan in place to allow ongoing construction to continue and regular trash and recyclable pick-up WILL NOT be interrupted.This is our best and most responsible path considering the circumstances and the Governor’s order.
I’ll end with another township action intended to be positive and uplifting. Beginning tonight, we will light our township Christmas Tree and will continue to keep it lit every night until this crisis is behind us. The tree serves as a cornerstone of the Mullica Hill spirit, represents us to other communities, and it will serve as an inspiration for better days ahead. It will remind us that things will return to normal and we will get through this – together. We are Harrison Strong!
Together for Harrison Township,