When you compare 2021 to 2020, there are similarities but a lot more differences which is something more palatable health wise and financially.

For 2021, things improved in many ways on many things for most of the year.

In Monmouth County, there were many challenges that had to be tackled so things could get better mainly with the Covid-19 pandemic.

"A lot of our activity was related to how we we're going to help people through this virus, not only with their health but with their financial stability, their jobs searches -- on and on -- how are they going to make it through," Sue Kiley, Monmouth County Commissioner Deputy Director tells Townsquare Media News.

One of the biggest reasons how the county was able to help guide residents through all these challenges was the Monmouth ACTS program.

"If we didn't have Monmouth ACTS when Covid started, I don't know where we'd be but because we had Monmouth ACTS, we were immediately ready to respond to our residents," Kiley said. "We created a financial recovery initiative and we had leaders in the community on the board of that and a line where people could call in and we could help them find job placement, we could help them find funding, if they need housing we could help them with that -- all the things that Monmouth ACTS normally offers -- but now you could get it at one time with one phone call."

In addition to that was Monmouth County receiving $108-million in federal CARES Act funds to help residents and businesses bounce back as well as the 53 municipalities.

"We started to disperse that to the municipalities, they submitted requests for reimbursement of Covid funds for anything they spent that they didn't have covered already," Kiley said. "Then we went to the businesses, we did $48-million dollars of disbursement to the businesses."

An unsung hero plan put into play was the communication the county had with the local governments.

"We had regular conference calls with all of the mayors of all of the towns and that was a tremendous unionizing-operation because we were all in the same boat, whether you're a Democrat or Republican, whether you talked to the county or not, we were all in this together and we were all working towards a solution together and that made a huge difference," Kiley said.

A Jersey Shore tourism industry with limitations in 2020 was able to thrive in 2021 and it helped Ocean and Monmouth Counties as the northern part of the shore was able to take some steps in bouncing back.

What occurred in 2021 can certainly help places like Monmouth County continue to take steps forward and thrive as we head into 2022.

The tourism industry in Monmouth County provides a lot of family-friendly and summer fun type attractions and venues which is why so many people have stayed local or come to the area between May and September.

While Monmouth County did pretty well on this front in 2021, including beach revenue alone, there are some things can be done to make summertime even better in 2022.

"Our tourism numbers were strong, (but) the one thing that we did struggle with and still struggle with is vacancies -- getting people to come back to work and get behind the counters and wait on the tables of all of these places that are trying to survive -- businesses along the shore," Kiley said. "Obviously, it's gotten better but it's still a big concern."

One of the other and obvious unknowns is the direction of the pandemic heading into 2022 and what that could mean in terms of restrictions, rules and overall health and safety.

In Monmouth County, that is priority number one as well in ensuring health and safety and then taking a look at how to help residents and businesses financially as well.

"We're all very hopeful that this is going to swing downward," Kiley, who is also the liaison to the Monmouth County Health Department, said.

There continues to be more people getting vaccinated in Monmouth County as well which is certainly a trend that a lot of people would love to see continue as we begin 2022.

"We have reached 100,000 vaccinations that we've distributed, so we're very proud of that number because it's a good number, and of course, all the pharmacies and other places that are offering vaccinations have high numbers as well, but we still have more to go," Kiley said.

As the calendar turns to 2022, there are a number of construction jobs or projects either underway or being planned or developed in some way in Monmouth County, including the Sea Girt-Rumson bridge, but many ideas are on hold for the time being until the commissioners have a better idea of what the budget could and will look like.

"We are actively, in the process, of doing the budget right now and questioning what's on the list for capital (projects), what makes sense to do this year, what doesn't make sense to do this year, how did the virus impact our financials and how can we deliver a budget that our residents are happy with," Kiley said.

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