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FREEHOLD, NJ – Monmouth County officials held a press conference today to provide updates on COVID-19 in Monmouth County and County operations.

Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone talked about welcoming all Monmouth County employees back to the office on June 15, but explained that public access will continue to be restricted until further notice.

“We are looking forward to having all of our County employees back in the office and can assure our employees that safety precautions have been placed in every department to ensure social distancing,” said Freeholder Director Arnone. “Public access to County buildings is still restricted because we feel it is important to get all of our employees back first and settled before reopening our doors to the public.”

Freeholder Deputy Director Susan M. Kiley provided an update on the activities of the Monmouth ACTS (Assisting Communities Through Services) group.  

“We have 75,327 individuals in Monmouth County who have filed for unemployment since March 21st,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Kiley, liaison to the County’s Department of Human Services, “Through the Financial Hub, we are focusing on assisting them with job training, resources, child care and financial coaching to help our residents get back to work and financial health as soon as possible.”  

Deputy Director Kiley also spoke about the impending grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the amount of $1.5 million from the Community Development Block Grant and $2.5 million from the Emergency Service Grant to be awarded to Monmouth County via the Office of Community Development.

“We are currently waiting for direction from HUD about how these awarded grant funds can be distributed and who is eligible to receive this assistance in Monmouth County,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Kiley, liaison to the County’s Department of Human Services. “As of right now, we know that these grants are designated to assist vulnerable populations who have been impacted by the pandemic.”

Freeholder Director Arnone noted that a number of locations will reopen in New Jersey on June 15, including the reopening of daycares, non-essential retail with limited occupancy and restaurants and bars for outdoor dining only.

“While I am glad that restaurants will be permitted to open for outdoor dining next week, we cannot ignore the fact that this isn’t enough,” said Freeholder Director Arnone. “There are numerous restaurants that will not have an option to provide outdoor dining or can only provide it for a few tables. How are these restaurants going to be able to stay in business?

“I understand the challenges that members of our small business community are facing. Since the beginning of the declared State of Emergency by the Governor, I have been holding regular meetings with our Mayors and Chambers of Commerce to work with them on a reopening plan.  We presented this plan to the Governor in the hopes that he would allow for a quicker reopening to give our businesses a chance to survive.

“Opening restaurants for outdoor dining is a—very small—step in the right direction, but there will be days when it is raining or too hot to eat outdoors. We are already seeing thousands of restaurants throughout the State close, which is completely unacceptable. As I have said countless times, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Big Box retail does not drive the economy, small business does! They support our economy and we all need to do our part to support them.

“Restaurants need to be allowed to open their doors back to their patrons and allow at least 50% capacity if we want them to survive.

“The Governor has said many times that he commends New Jersey residents for doing the right thing and taking the right precautions, so let these restaurant owners do just that.

“Provide them with the guidance and then let them open their doors. Governor, give our small businesses a chance before it’s too late!” 

Freeholder Director Arnone went on to implore the State to release guidelines for reopening schools to allow for in-person special education.

“For nearly three months, these children have been without these programs that are essential to their well-being. These extended school year programs are instrumental in helping these children maintain structure and routine in their lives. We need an answer from the State now on when these programs can resume so that the schools can plan and know the guidelines they will need to follow,” said Freeholder Director Arnone. “As a board member for the Monmouth Ocean Foundation for Children alongside Sheriff Shaun Golden and many others, I understand that this is extremely important for our special needs community and their families. The set back is detrimental to the progress they have made.”

For more Monmouth County news updates and information regarding the COVID-19 situation, go to www.visitmonmouth.com.