Monmouth County Freeholders take steps to distribute stimulus funding
Monmouth County Freeholders are hoping the $108-million in stimulus money they are receiving via the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act will help provide some cover and for the remainder of 2020.
At a press conference in Freehold Township on Monday, Freeholder Director Tom Arnone said it's a lot of money but they also have many needs to address across their 53 municipalities which is where the relief funding is heading.
"It's a lot of money, there's a lot of municipalities, there's a lot of needs and there's a lot of unknowns to those dollars," Arnone said.
Monmouth County Freeholders and County Business Administrator Teri O'Connor currently working with the eight other New Jersey counties who received stimulus funding to develop guidelines and protocols on how to appropriate all the funds for the period of March 1 to December 31 for all Covid-19 related expenses.
"We're looking at potentially putting it in systematically releases of that funding over different periods," Arnone said. "For example, maybe June 15 we gather some information and expenses from municipalities who fit under the criteria that then we could do a release, maybe then we move to September 1 then maybe November 1 and so on."
To help ensure everything is properly regulated, Arnone said the Freeholders are hiring an outside accounting firm to make sure guidelines are being followed.
"The last thing we want to do is go against those guidelines and find out that we owe that money back," Arnone said.
Freeholder Director Arnone also addressed their current business climate which included the success of the Take Out in Monmouth initiative, which encourages residents to order from local businesses that are open and now includes a list of vendors that registered for the now-postponed Made in Monmouth event.
“It's encouraging to see the amount of website views greatly increase as this initiative progresses," Arnone said. "Monmouth County residents are showing their support for these small businesses and their employees during this difficult time."
More than 13,000 individuals have visited the Take Out in Monmouth website, with more than 26,000 total views since it went live in early April.
The Freeholders also announced that all public access restrictions to County buildings and programs have been extended through Friday, May 15.
The restrictions include all Monmouth County Library branches and the Monmouth County Park System buildings.
Freeholder Deputy Director Kiley spoke in part about behavioral and mental health during the pandemic including the County COVID-19 hotline where callers in need of support can go for a friendly voice but the county is also calling out for volunteers to help their community.
"We have 60 licensed professionals who have volunteered their time to be able to offer counseling to anyone who needs it. We are still in need of bilingual people that can get on the line and be able to assist people calling in," Kiley said. “Residents, who are experiencing feelings of uncertainty, fear or worry related to COVID-19 should call 732-845-2070 for support.”
As residents continue to conduct deep cleanings to ensure the germs, viruses and any other allergens are not in the air they're breathing in, it's important to not breathe or ingest those chemicals.
Monmouth County Public Health coordinator Chris Merkel says there's been an uptick in calls to poison control centers.
"We are seeing the daily number of calls into poison control centers increase sharply since the beginning of March which is because people are being exposed to cleaners and disinfectants in their own homes," Merkel said. "It's important to continue to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces but also it's vitally important to read and follow the directions on the labels for these products."
Merkel says when you're using cleaning products, make sure you have proper ventilation.