Remember that $300 in extra unemployment benefits? It’s finally here

Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the FEMA Lost Wages Assistance payment system has officially been launched in New Jersey.

Applicants can get up to $300 per week for a maximum of six weeks from Aug. 1-Sept. 5.

The payments will be made as a lump sum and are expected the week of Oct. 19. Murphy said those receiving benefits during that period do not have to do anything extra to get the lump-sum payment.

“Claimants who have already attested that their unemployment is COVID-related don’t need to do anything – they will receive a lump sum payment, if they are eligible, later this month,” Murphy said. “Those who have not attested why they are out of work will need to certify that their unemployment is COVID-related. They are being notified by the Labor Department with instructions.”

Murphy, speaking at his COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, said he wished he could do more.

“While this is not the long-term relief that we had hoped for from Washington, it will certainly help New Jersey families,” he said. “We welcome that … This is something. If we can find a penny for you folks, we will get it and deliver it to you.”

It’s needed.

In the past week, 23,607 New Jersey residents filed initial unemployment claims, which brings the total claims filed since March 21 to 1.6 million. While still high, this week’s total marks a decrease from last week of about 35,000 claims.

More than $16.2 billion has been paid out in benefits, according to the Department of Labor.

Approximately 96% of all people who applied received some sort of payment, and the average length of benefits is about 15 weeks.

Other notes from the briefing:

Murphy wants more stimulus

President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Tuesday that he has instructed Congress to halt negotiations on a second COVID-19 relief bill until after the November election. He seemed to hedge on that hours – and days – later.

As Americans wait eagerly for more economic assistance, Gov. Phil Murphy said the president needs to stop playing games.

“Mr. President, please support (a relief bill). Sign it. Send it out,” he said. “We can’t afford (to wait). We will, as a nation, and we probably (will) as a state, go into a freefall.

“Hard-working individuals, especially those who are unemployed, will be the ones that bear the biggest burden.”

Health metrics 

The state reported an additional 1,301 positive COVID-19 tests Thursday. This is the highest the number has been since May 29 when the total was 1,394. The statewide total since March is now at 211,148.

There have been 11 more deaths now confirmed to be from COVID-19 related complications, bringing the overall fatality total to 14,273. Probable deaths went up by one since last count and are now at 1,788.

Seven of these deaths were from the past week, with two each coming on Oct. 5, 6 and 7. There were 13 more deaths reported in hospitals yesterday, but they are not yet lab-confirmed.

Other hospital numbers

  • In hospital: 652 (422 confirmed cases, 230 under investigation);
  • In ICU: 148;
  • On ventilators: 52;
  • Rate of transmission: 22;
  • Positivity rate 69% (From Oct. 4).

Case numbers in key counties 

While numbers throughout the state continue to rise, Murphy offered a sobering comparison between COVID-19 and the common flu.

“To anyone who still is under the misguided thinking that this is just like the flu, it’s well past time for a wakeup call,” Murphy said. “In just seven months, the number of New Jerseyans who have died from COVID-19 … is nearly 11 times the total number of residents who died from flu-related complications in the entirety of the 2018-19 flu season.”

Ocean and Monmouth counties continue to be main areas of concerns, as they account for 285 and 128 of the positive results reported respectfully. Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, Passaic and Union counties have also reported more than 80 additional cases each.

Murphy went on to encourage New Jerseyans to continue their efforts in helping stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I urge every one of you to keep up your work in helping us beat this virus,” he said. “Every time you put on your face mask, you keep a social distance from others, you wash your hands with soap and water, you’re doing your part to help us win this battle. “

Public school transmission  

Murphy also gave an update on the cases of COVID-19 in schools throughout the state as reported on the state’s new school-reporting dashboard.

“Today, we are showing a total of 16 outbreaks which can be traced to our public schools,” the governor said. “(These outbreaks) account for a total of 58 cases of the virus … whether it’s students, faculty, or staff.”

Out of all the counties in the state, nine have outbreaks within their school districts. The county with the most outbreaks is Cape May, which has three reported outbreaks that have been traced back to in-school transmission. Although the level of transmission is alarming, Murphy also noted that, out of about 3,000 public school buildings in New Jersey, only about 0.5% have outbreaks. 

“Every precaution is being taken,” Murphy said. “As every new case is identified, it is dealt (with) quickly and properly to keep our schools safe. We take every one of those outbreaks, every one of those cases as seriously as we can.”

The final word 

Murphy on the five-alarm fire in Elizabeth on Monday:

“With a heavy heart, I want to send my condolences to the families of the victims of the horrific fires … They claimed the lives of four residents, including three blessed little children. (The fire) also destroyed a local business. Elizabeth is a strong and resilient community, and I know why. I know they and we will rally around the survivors as we do whenever tragedy strikes our New Jersey family. May God bless and watch over the souls of those who were lost.”