N.J. gets greater flexibility on how it can use $2.4B it received from CARES Act

Gov. Phil Murphy said the state got good news from the federal government regarding how it could use the $2.4 billion in CARES Act funding that New Jersey has received.

“We have received greater flexibility in how we can use this money — which means more of it will stay here in New Jersey to backstop our efforts against COVID-19,” he said. “I am grateful for the spirit of cooperation with which the administration has taken these discussions, and for their willingness to listen to our concerns.”

Murphy said he has had multiple discussions with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, President Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the issue. Talks, he said, will continue.

“While this new guidance doesn’t get us all the way to where we want — or frankly, need — to be, I am grateful that we now have greater room to meet some of our immediate needs,” he said. “We will put this money to good use for our first responders and our small businesses. And, because of this guidance, we will be able to fill an immediate need to provide the funding we had budgeted for our schools and educators.”

Murphy, speaking at his daily briefing, said the state will now be able to make the next school aid payment of $467 million, which will go out Friday.

“This is a well-deserved recognition that our educators are a critical part of our COVID-19 response,” he said. “This guidance is a win for them, a win for 1.4 million students and their families, and a win for our property taxpayers.”

Murphy also made his almost daily request for more block grant aid from the federal government.

“We not only need full flexibility to use our CARES Act funding to cover the escalating costs of this war — and it is a war — but also billions in direct federal assistance to stave off the economic and fiscal catastrophe that is threating not just New Jersey, but every state, on the other side,” he said. “We need Congress to step up, in a big way, to provide direct relief to the states, to help cover the immense revenue shortfalls that are a result of us having to close our economies — a step none of us wanted to do, but had to do to save American lives.

“It doesn’t matter if your state is large or small, urban or rural, or led by a Democrat or a Republican. This need is universal.”

Here is more from the briefing:

The numbers

Murphy said the number of COVID-19 fatalities in the state passed another unwanted milestone Tuesday as 334 additional fatalities sent the total over 8,000, to 8,244. Murphy also announced there were 2,494 new cases, increasing the state’s total to 130,593.

Murphy continued to say that there is a lag in reporting.

Hospital numbers, as of 10 p.m. Monday night:

  • In hospitals: 5,328 (3,000 fewer in past three weeks);
  • In intensive/critical care: 1,534 (one full week of declining numbers);
  • On ventilators: 1,169;
  • Discharged: 232;
  • Admitted: 385;
  • In FEMA field hospitals: 35.

Long-term care investigation

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is asking for the public’s help during the early stages of its investigation of long-term care facilities.

Grewal said his office wants to hear of any firsthand knowledge of illegal activity or other misconduct by long-term care facilities in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic — and that folks can fill out a form here.

Grewal also said people can upload any documents that demonstrate the misconduct they are reporting. And that they can remain anonymous while doing do.

He said that, the more detailed a submission is, the more helpful it will be for investigators. And he asks that those submitting keep in mind that the form is designed to further an ongoing statewide investigation, not to answer specific questions about a facility or someone living at a facility.

More help on the way

Murphy said the Division of Consumer Affairs will begin standing up a program to grant temporary emergency licenses to recent graduates of nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy and respiratory care therapy programs who have not yet been able to take and pass their licensing exams.

“This means that thousands of recent graduates can quickly join the teams of health care professionals currently fighting COVID-19.”

The final word(s)

Murphy on opening non-essential businesses:

“Non-essential small business is on our list that we’re looking at very seriously,” he said.

And Murphy on long-term care facilities:

“There’s no question there’s long-term repercussions.”

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