COVID-19 update: CARES Act doesn't work for Sussex County, freeholder says

Vernon. Freeholder says Sussex County won't get its fair share of COVID-19 aid. Agencies are selected to help small businesses through the confusion when applying for aid. The Weekend sees 90 more cases reported in Sussex County. Short-term rentals are banned in Vernon as NJ gives localities more authority. Park and trail monitoring is vigilant, mayor says. Free online support groups are offered for families with challenged youth. Gottheimer fights for local testing site. Retired doctors can help more easily now. Pace Institute of Karate in Vernon is offering free online children's video classes "to get the kids off the couch, their phones and tablets." Child care centers are now for essential workers only. New Jersey to get more ventilators. Flags fly at half-staff to remember those who died. New Jersey's primary date may change. Celebrate the holidays safely.

Sparta /
06 Apr 2020 | 06:23

Freeholder says Sussex County won't get its fair share of aid

Sussex County Freeholder Director Sylvia Petillo (R) says it's "virtually impossible" for Sussex County residents and businesses to qualify for relief through the CARES Act, Congress's $2 trillion coronavirus aid package to support businesses and workers through the pandemic.

In a statement titled "140,488 reasons why Sussex County needs state support," Petillo said it was "extremely disappointing that the first round of stimulus funding released this weekend was allocated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development." Sussex County doesn't qualify for this funding under the traditional formulas used for eligibility, she said.

"This is not the only loss Sussex County suffered over this past weekend," she said. "On Friday, county business owners applying for the Payroll Protection Program under the CARES Act encountered nothing but chaos in the process."

She said only banks that are approved by the Small Business Administration (SBA) are qualified to be a lender.

"Unfortunately, many banks in Sussex County are not SBA approved," said Petillo. "Hence, many who are not customers of an approved financial institution cannot apply for the loans and grants put in place to help small businesses during this unprecedented time. To make matters worse, banks that are approved are putting their emphasis on current customers."

She said 140,488 Sussex County residents are counting on their federal representatives and governor to fight for a more equitable manner of allocating aid. She said every county should have received a direct grant.

"If the events of this weekend are any sign of the challenges the County must endure in the future, it begs the question, How many other roadblocks will be placed in our way preventing rural communities like Sussex County from receiving their fair allocation of the coronavirus stimulus bill?" said Petillo.

"A formula that favors 17 counties and ignores the needs of the other 4 is unacceptable," she said.

Agencies are assigned to help small businesses

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) is partnering with four organizations to help businesses get federal financial assistance through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Organizations helping small businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak are: African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Rising Tide Capital, Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. They will help businesses prepare financial information and complete and submit the on-line or paper-based application, among other tasks.

"We understand that there are numerous programs out there and it can be difficult to navigate through them," said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. "Through this technical assistance program, and other initiatives we are standing up, our goal is to connect business owners and entrepreneurs with the funding sources that best suit their individual needs."

Small business owners file their applications through the SBA to receive working capital loans to help them survive this crisis. Additional information about SBA program is available online at disasterloan.sba.gov.

"The economic impact that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on small businesses is staggering and the New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce stands ready to assist business owners, regardless of veteran status, as they seek to overcome the challenges that arise in the coming days, weeks, and months," said Jeff Cantor, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.), founder of the NJ State Veterans Chamber of Commerce. "Entrepreneurs and small businesses play such a critical role in transforming our communities through the jobs and other opportunities they provide."

Earlier this month the state launched an online portal dedicated to answering business owners' questions related to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on businesses. The portal can be found at cv.business.nj.gov.

Weekend brings 90 more cases

Sussex County Freeholder Director Sylvia Petillo on Monday announced two additional COVID-19-related deaths in the county, a 76-year-old man from Vernon Township and a 56-year-old woman from Byram Township.

She said the Sussex County Division of Health has been working with people who came into contact with these patients. Close contacts are in their homes under self-quarantine and being monitored by the health division staff.

The Sussex County Division of Health on Monday reported 90 additional cases of COVID-19 among county residents, including those reported over the weekend of April 4.

The health division was notified of 29 cases on Saturday, 31 cases on Sunday, and 30 cases on Monday.

The total number of cases of COVID-19 in Sussex County is at 301, as follows: Andover Borough (2), Andover Township (36), Branchville Borough (3), Byram Township (14), Frankford Township (12), Franklin Borough (8), Fredon Township (5), Green Township (4), Hamburg Borough (8), Hampton Township (7), Hardyston Township (14), Hopatcong Borough (38), Lafayette Township (2), Montague Township (3), Newton Town (35), Ogdensburg Borough (4), Sandyston Township (2), Sparta Township (46), Stanhope Borough (8), Stillwater Township (0), Sussex Borough (5), Vernon Township (27), Walpack Township (0), and Wantage Township (18).

Short-term rentals banned

New powers for New Jersey's local and county governments to restrict short-term rentals took effect Sunday night, part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell said he has issued an order that restricts any “hotel, motel, guest house, or private residence, or parts thereof” in Vernon from accepting “new transient guests or seasonal tenants” after 4 p.m. on April 6 until further notice.

"This restricts Airbnb, other online marketplaces, and any other organization or individual from arranging or offering short-term rental lodging in Vernon Township," Burrell said. "I issued this order out of the concerns about an influx of new visitors to our town during the current public health emergency. Although Vernon Township ordinarily welcomes all visitors, at this time we must take all available steps to enforce social distancing recommendations and limit nonessential travel to our town."

The additional local authority does not extend to people housed under a state-led shelter effort, to those in temporary residence under emergency or other housing assistance, or to health care workers staying somewhere on a temporary basis.

Gov. Phil Murphy said shore communities have reported people trying to temporarily relocate there from areas hard-hit by the coronavirus spread, but those communities can lack the health care infrastructure that a surge in patients would require.

Murphy urged state residents to remain in their primary residences during the COVID-19 crisis.

Park and trail monitoring is vigilant, mayor says

Mayor Burrell said Maple Grange Park and the two key Appalachian Trail entry points in Vernon -- the boardwalk section off of Route 517 and the “Stairway to Heaven” entry point off of Route 94 -- are being monitored.

He said park users have been found following the social distancing guidelines so far. "When users have been observed interacting in a group, inquiries have found that they have been primarily family members using the park as a way of getting out of the house for some mental/emotional relief," he said.

He said enhanced monitoring by the Vernon Police Department "seems to have significantly reduced the number (but not all) of individuals who are choosing to ignore the electronic 'trail closed' sign and the snow fencing blocking easy entry to the boardwalk section of the Appalachian Trail on Route 517.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the New Jersey State Park Service have not formally closed access at the “Stairway to Heaven” entry point, they have assigned park stewards who are limiting the number of individuals who can access the trail from this location at any single time, and are advising all trail walkers to practice social distancing, Burrell said.

"We Americans are a very self-reliant and individualistic group of people," the mayor said. "However, reducing the spread of this coronavirus is not something that we can do alone; we must all accept our responsibility to do our part by practicing social distancing, avoiding large crowds and gatherings, practicing good hand hygiene, and staying home if we are sick."

Free online support groups for families

Family Partners of Morris & Sussex Counties recently announced seven new online support groups in an effort to continue serving families with challenged youth in the midst of COVID-19.

Support group descriptions and schedules can be found at familypartnersms.org or on the organization’s Facebook page.

“We are online and ready to serve our families from the comfort and safety of their own homes,” said executive director Rachel Helt. “Families can find the link needed to participate for each group on our website. It is very easy and free to access.”

Groups offered include: Positive Parenting Group (Mondays at 6 p.m.), Youth Breakfast Club for ages 13-21 (Tuesdays at 10 a.m.), Spanish Speaking Parent Support Group (Tuesdays at 6 p.m.), Support Group for Dads (Wednesdays at 7 p.m.), Educational Discussion with Timely Topics (Thursdays at noon), Parent Support Group (Thursdays at 6 p.m.), and Youth Partnership Program for ages 13-21 (Fridays at 7 p.m.).

“My team is working hard to provide positivity, resources and connection to our families who had challenges with their youth prior to this pandemic,” Helt said. “We are working telephonically with families and have enhanced our website and social media platforms to better meet current needs."

An uplifting daily video message series Helt calls “Mornings with Margarita” features a giraffe providing messages of hope and inspiration drawn from the acclaimed Nurtured Heart Approach parenting technique. Videos appear in both English and Spanish

Family Partners of Morris & Sussex Counties is a non-profit organization that provides support, education and advocacy to families with children who have mental health, emotional, behavioral challenges and developmentaldisabilities. For more information, visit familypartnersms.org or call 973-940-3194.

Gottheimer fights for local testing site

On April 5, U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish an additional drive-through COVID-19 testing site to serve the residents of Warren and Sussex Counties.

The New Jersey Department of Health has reported that the pandemic has not yet peaked in New Jersey and is expected to worsen in the coming weeks. New Jersey already ranked the second-largest outbreak by total number of cases — second only to New York. The number of positive cases in Warren and Sussex counties has steadily increased in the past days and weeks, but without a drive-through testing site, these counties are at higher risk for these numbers to increase," Gottheimer said.

"Accurate detection and containment of the coronavirus is our best chance to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of this virus. Therefore, I strongly urge you to support a new drive-through testing center in Warren and Sussex Counties until the peak of infections has begun its decline,” Gottheimer wrote in a letter to FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor. “As we have heard consistently from local medical professionals, the current lack of testing options in these Counties is likely leading to a large undercount of the population that may have contracted coronavirus."

Retired doctors can help more easily now

Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday authorized the Division of Consumer Affairs to temporarily reactivate the licenses of recently retired health care professionals and grant temporary licenses to doctors licensed in foreign countries.

The order will temporarily waive some restrictions on advanced practice nurses and physician assistants that will allow them to collaborate with physicians and dispense narcotics.

The governor said the order will remove bureaucratic roadblocks to bringing more health care professionals into the fight against COVID-19.

"We need trained, experienced medical personnel to ensure proper staffing as we build out this new capacity, which is why we have put out the call to retired health care professionals to join our fight and support our existing workforce," Murphy said.

He said his administration is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase the number of beds, reopen closed hospitals, and erect field medical stations to prepare for additional cases.

Free online children's karate classes

Pace Institute of Karate in Vernon is offering free online children's video classes "as a community service so that we can get the kids off the couch, their phones and tablets," said Hanshi Michael Pace. "The kids will have a good time, learn something and help break the monotony of being prisoners in our own homes."

The Zoom platform will be used for the live video classes, which will be recorded so they can watch later if not able to make the live class.

All information is on a special web page at: http://member-site.net/?FE--ibwgc.

For more information visit pacekarate.com/cabin.

Child care centers are for essential workers only

Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order directing all child care centers to serve solely as emergency child care centers for the children of essential workers. Child care centers were ordered to close by April 1 if they did not certify their commitment to this order

“Essential personnel are a vital part of our response and limiting child care to solely these individuals will assist in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases, as well as provide our front-line workers with the critical services they need to get through this emergency,” said Murphy. “A lack of child care cannot be a barrier for our essential employees, and while these workers commit themselves to our New Jersey family, we will commit ourselves to protecting their families.”

Child care providers that provide regular care for children up to age 13, including licensed child care centers, were ordered to remain closed to the general public through the school closure period.

More ventilators for New Jersey

The state secured 500 more ventilators after "multiple conversations" with the White House, Murphy wrote Sunday on Twitter.

Gov. Murphy said the machines are New Jersey's biggest pressing need, and he vowed he would not "stop fighting to get us the equipment we need to save every life."

Flags fly at half-staff

Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday ordered flags across the state to half-staff indefinitely to commemorate people who died from COVID-19.

"This is a way, a small way but I think an important way, that we can make sure their loss is not forgotten," Murphy said during a daily news conference on the outbreak.

Primary date change?

New Jersey's June 2 primary seems likely to change. Murphy said Friday he'd be "stunned" if the date doesn't move later, but no final decision has been made.

The Democratic National Committee has pushed its convention from mid-July to Aug. 17.

Celebrate the holidays safely

Residents preparing to celebrate holidays in the coming week should not get together with family and friends, Gov. Murphy said.

Christians are preparing to celebrate Holy Week beginning Sunday and leading up to Easter a week later. Jews mark Passover on Wednesday.

Residents have been ordered to stay home since March 21 to help stop the spread of the virus.

"We're going to have to be especially vigilant," Murphy said.

In the absence of a vaccine, the governor said, social distancing amounts to the No. 1 tool residents have to stop the spread of the virus.