NJ Tallies $200M in Expenses Responding to COVID-19

The expenses are just a fraction of the state's nearly $40 billion budget, but come as the state is seeing a dropoff in tax revenue, with a 15.3% unemployment rate

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New Jersey's state government has racked up about $200 million in expenses responding to the COVID-19 crisis over the roughly two months since the first case became know, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The receipts obtained through the state's public records law show $197 million in expenses, with the lion's share stemming from the state's Law and Public Safety Department, which houses the state police. The state Human Services and Health Departments also recorded millions in expenses.

The charges go from as little as about $60 for monthly Zoom meeting service costs to $2.5 million to a medical and surgical supply company, in one case. There are numerous charges from Amazon, the online retailer, as well as thousands of dollars in expenses from various restaurants.

The expenses are just a fraction of the state's nearly $40 billion budget, but come as the state is seeing a drop-off in tax revenue, with a 15.3% unemployment rate. They also dwarf a number of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's proposals from before the outbreak hit: he had sought $80 million to remediate the state's lead drinking water infrastructure, for comparison. Fifty million dollars would have financed an expanded college tuition program Murphy was seeking.

It's not clear how the state will pay for the unplanned expenses, but New Jersey got about $2.4 billion in federal funds through the CARES Act, and Murphy has already petitioned the Democrat-led Legislature to use $600 million of that funding to finance state operations.

An email seeking comment on the expenses was sent to Murphy's office.

A look at other developments:

More sectors opening

More sectors of New Jersey's economy will soon be opening up from restrictions stemming from COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.

Horse racing can begin as soon as next weekend, while child-care centers can open on June 15. Organized sports can return a week later, and day camps by July 6, Murphy said during a news conference.

The state's coronavirus outbreak trends are heading in the right direction, the Democratic governor said, leading him to loosen the two-month old stay-at-home order. If trends continue to go in the right direction, Murphy said church and other religious services could resume by June 12, but he stopped short of guaranteeing their reopening.

The state's beaches were open in time for Memorial Day, and Murphy approved outdoor graduation ceremonies earlier this week.

Businesses deemed nonessential like casinos, gyms, salons and retail are still closed.

New figures

New Jersey had about 1,100 new positive cases reported overnight, bringing the state total to about 159,000. The death toll climbed by 131 overnight, reaching 11,531 overall.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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