Governor Phil Murphy

This Week In New Jersey: August 21, 2020


Governor Murphy Announces $37 Million In Funding For Counties To Combat Covid-19

Acting on a commitment to deliver relief to communities who were not eligible for federal funding allocated through the CARES Act and with the assistance of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Congressman Josh Gottheimer, Congressman Tom Malinowski, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, Congressman Andy Kim, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, and county leaders, Governor Phil Murphy announced $37 million in support for 12 additional counties to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be made available to counties in three separate tranches under one Memorandum of Agreement. The 12 counties include: Atlantic; Burlington; Cape May; Cumberland; Gloucester; Hunterdon; Mercer; Morris; Salem; Somerset; Sussex; and Warren. These counties were ineligible for Coronavirus Relief Funding because their populations are below 500,000. 

“There is no denying that COVID-19 has placed an incredible amount of strain on resources across all levels of government,” said Governor Murphy. “I’ve been clear from day one of this crisis that we’ll spare no expense to protect the health and safety of New Jerseyans, and that requires us to provide our communities with the support they need. Together, this funding will help us save lives and emerge stronger as one New Jersey family.”

The first portion of funding, approximately $15 million in total, provides counties with a reimbursement for COVID-19 related expenses to date. This money represents 25 percent of the county cost share with FEMA paying the remaining 75 percent, along with other eligible Coronavirus Relief Fund expenses. These funds will be made available to all 12 counties upon signing the MOU and upon proper documentation of the expenditures.  were made available to all 12 counties upon signing the MOU. 

The second portion of funding will help counties stand up and maintain testing sites. All 12 counties will receive $357,500 for this purpose.


Governor Murphy Signs Legislation to Eliminate the Title of "Freeholder" From Public Office

Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation (S855), which requires the title of “chosen freeholder” to be changed to “county commissioner” and all “boards of chosen freeholders” to be known as “boards of county commissioners.” The bill also requires counties to update their letterheads, stationary, and other writings, as well as their websites, to bear the title of county commissioners in place of freeholders or chosen freeholders within one year of the bill’s effective date, January 1, 2021.

The bill would not require counties to update or replace signs or other writings to reflect this title change within this timeframe if doing so would require the expenditure of county funds. In these cases, the title would be changed whenever the writing is next updated or replaced in the ordinary course of business.

“We have an obligation to ensure that governance in New Jersey is inclusive and representative of the tremendous diversity of our great state,” said Governor Murphy. “Amid a national reckoning to reexamine vestiges rooted in structural racism, this action will eliminate the use of the term ‘Freeholder’ in county government— a title that is an outgrowth of a time when people of color and women were excluded from public office.” 

“Changing the title of ‘Freeholder’ is long overdue. People know the term is offensive and refers to a time when only white male landowners could hold public office,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “As a former Freeholder, I was fully aware that this title was not inclusive of African American woman such as myself. History is constantly evolving, and our terminology needs to keep up with it to be more reflective of where we are as a society.”


Governor Murphy Announces Financial Assistance to Protect Residential and Commerical Utility Customers

Governor Phil Murphy announced that the State’s public water, gas, and electric utility companies regulated by BPU have all agreed to extend their voluntary moratorium preventing shutoffs to both residential and commercial customers during the COVID-19 pandemic until October 15th. Additionally, the utilities will offer residential and commercial customers a flexible and extended Deferred Payment Agreement (DPA) of at least 12 months and up to 24 months. No down payments will be required for this assistance.

“Utility services are critical and must continue uninterrupted during this unprecedented time,” said Governor Murphy. “No one should have to make a decision on whether to put food on the table or pay for basic necessities. With today’s announcement, in partnership with our public gas, electric and water utilities, we are continuing our commitment to extend strong financial relief to residents and businesses as they navigate their way toward stability.” 

“Governor Murphy and I remain committed to helping people stay in their homes with full access to basic utilities as we weather this storm,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). “In addition to this extended moratorium on shutoffs and flexible deferred repayment plans, the State has also responded by expanding our energy and rental assistance programs to help residents get through this crisis. We encourage people to visit: to find out if they are eligible for one of our assistance programs.” 

“This has been an extraordinarily difficult time for New Jerseyans who have been unable to pay their utility bills during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso. “With the cooperation of our state’s utilities, we have been able to provide an important helping hand to those who need it. That assistance will continue with payment flexibility and an array of assistance programs to help protect those who are struggling.” 

First Lady Tammy Murphy, New Jersey Department of Health Convenes New Maternal Mortality Review Committee

First Lady Tammy Murphy and New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli held the first meeting of the new, broader Maternal Mortality Review Committee comprised of 24 members representing diverse disciplines across the health field.

“Today marks a new chapter in our multipronged approach to combat the maternal and infant health crisis in New Jersey,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “The revamped Maternal Mortality Review Committee will support our ongoing efforts to identify and understand various factors that lead to unacceptable maternal deaths due to pregnancy related complications. This committee is instrumental to our goal of making New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation to give birth.”

“New Jersey is thankful to have such a broad array of experts serving on this vital committee,” said Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli. “The committee’s examination of these deaths will ensure accurate counting and inform initiatives to prevent these tragic losses going forward.”


Unemployment Payments to NJ Workers Top $14B

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has distributed $14.1 billion in unemployment benefits and received 1.5 million applications for benefits since COVID-19 forced businesses and organizations throughout the state to curtail operations five months ago.

“We’re moving claims forward for workers whose income has dried up due to COVID or who cannot return to their place of work because of the virus,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “We are currently paying benefits to as many as 300,000 people who do not qualify for traditional unemployment -- this is an entirely new population of people who are receiving benefits in addition to the record numbers of ‘regular’ claimants who are in need, often for an extended period, during the pandemic.”