Editor's note: Herbert Yardley, Sussex County Freeholder, sent the following letter dated May 5 to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
Dear Governor Murphy:
Sussex County is home to 140,000 New Jersey residents. On average 70% of our workforce commute from Sussex County to a place of employment outside the county. Most commute to and from the New York City area.
Our citizens are anxious to get back to work. However, we know the importance of doing this safely. As of today our county is one of four counties in the state that have not received any financial aid from the State or Federal Government to assist in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. On Sunday, the New Jersey Herald reported the county's death rate to be twice that of the State as a whole. Sussex County has more COVID-19 cases and deaths than 16 states in the country.
Having received no State or Federal financial support we find ourselves in a situation where we must use our county budget to pay for the kits to test our citizens for COVID-19. This was not anticipated when we drafted our budget. Sussex County has been determined to be in a “hot” region, which is why it is critical we receive the necessary financial support to help us get through the coming weeks and months. This will provide the County the flexibility to best address our most urgent needs.
It is imperative that we keep testing our residents. Therefore, we will be using our county budget to start providing tests to our residents for COVID-19 on Friday, May 8, 2020. In order to get our residents back to work it is crucial that we receive funding to continue to provide testing to ensure that we keep our residents safe, healthy, and to prevent a second wave of this deadly virus.
The State of New Jersey has received certain non-entitlement funding through the CDBG (more than $4 million) and ESG (more than $11 million) programs. It is our understanding that you can allocate these funds at your discretion throughout the State, particularly to help struggling Counties that did not directly receive relief.
After your recent meeting with President Trump, the state will be getting 550,000 testing kits and 750,000 swabs. This should increase the output to at least 20,000 tests a day in New Jersey. Will Sussex County be getting any of these tests for our residents? Or are we going to fund testing entirely through local property tax revenues?
It is my hope that you will fund the testing program you have expressed we all need in order to get our residents back to work while also keeping them safe and healthy.
Herbert Yardley, Sussex County Freeholder