Rail, camps, summer school reopen after COVID-19 pause

Trenton. Meanwhile, NJ extends jobless benefits for extra 20 weeks amid outbreak.

09 Jul 2020 | 01:10

    New Jersey Transit on Monday resumed full rail and light rail service after a break because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Also back Monday were youth day camps, in-person summer school and school graduation ceremonies, capped at 500 people and required to be outside.

    Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy had earlier announced the reopening as part of Stage 2, of three. Before the Fourth of July holiday, nearly a dozen different sectors reopened, though with limited capacity. They include: amusement parks, aquariums, boardwalk arcades, bowling alleys, casinos, libraries and museums.

    Rail riders and NJ Transit workers must wear masks under the governor’s reopening mandate.

    New Jersey’s coronavirus trends have continued to head in the right direction, while other states are seeing cases spike again.

    There have been about 173,000 positive cases in New Jersey, with a confirmed death toll of 13,355. There are 1,854 other fatalities that officials say likely stemmed from COVID-19.

    NJ extends jobless benefits for extra 20 weeks amid outbreak

    New Jersey is extending unemployment benefits by 20 weeks, the state Labor Department said.

    New Jersey’s unemployment rate has reached record levels during the COVID-19 outbreak, with roughly 1.3 million workers seeking benefits.

    The extension would kick in after 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits run out, as well as 13 weeks of federal help.

    The state is able to extend benefits because it reached federal benchmarks, the Labor Department said.

    The 20-week extension of benefits is triggered during ``high unemployment periods,`` according to the department’s website. Those are defined as periods when the unemployment rate for the most recent three months reaches 8%, among other factors. The state’s unemployment rate is 15.2% in May.

    The cost of the extended benefits is split evenly between the state unemployment trust fund and the federal government, the department said.

    150k New Jersey businesses get $17.2B in loans

    A total of 147,550 New Jersey businesses received $17.2 billion in loans from a federal program aimed at helping businesses hurt by the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Treasury Department reported.

    The department identified only 22,000 businesses that got loans of $150,000 or more, with unidentified firms making up the remainder.

    Full-service restaurants were the industry with the most loans, followed by offices of doctors, lawyers and dentists. Religious organizations and beauty salons were also near the top of the list.

    Phil Murphy disclosed on state Ethics Commission documents that he held a stake in a company benefiting from the program. Cohere Communications, based in New York, got a loan of $350,000 to $1 million, according to Treasury Department documents.

    Murphy said in an unrelated news conference Monday that he played ``absolutely no role`` in getting the loan for the company, in which he said he had made an investment. It’s unclear how much Murphy invested in the firm and when he did so.

    Murphy said on Ethics Commissioner documents that the firm does not have any business before the state. A message was left seeking comment from the voice and information services firm.

    Under the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal government is backing $659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be forgiven if employers use the money on payroll, rent and similar expenses.

    Companies typically must have fewer than 500 workers to qualify. About $130 billion was unclaimed as the application deadline closed June 30. With money still available, Congress voted to extend the program just as it was expiring, setting a new date of Aug. 8.

    NJ seeing ‘small spikes’ in virus from travelers

    Murphy said the state is starting to see ``small spikes`` in COVID-19 infection from people returning from trips to places like South Carolina and Florida.

    Murphy said Sunday on NBC’s ``Meet the Press`` that the ``most recent and most prevalent`` example was a wedding in Myrtle Beach from which New Jersey residents returned with the virus, but ``we’ve got other cases that we’re running down.``

    The governor said he believes a national strategy is needed to handle the virus, and mask wearing has to be at the core of it. He said ``if you’re leaving your house, put on a mask. I think it ought to be ... a national requirement.``

    Drivers seeing lowest July 4 weekend gas prices in four years

    Motorists heading out for the holiday weekend in New Jersey and around the country are seeing the lowest gas prices for the July 4 period in four years.

    AAA Mid-Atlantic says the average price of a gallon of regular gas in New Jersey on Friday ticked up a penny to $2.16. Drivers were paying $2.80 a gallon at this time last year.

    The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.17, unchanged from last week. The national average was $2.73 at this time a year ago.

    Analysts say gas prices in the region are fairly stable with data showing demand has slightly decreased while gasoline supplies increased. The national average is also holding steady, meaning gasoline supply and demand are largely in sync across the country.

    - The Associated Press