BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - TAPinto Berkeley Heights continues our "Catch up with Mayor Angie Devanney" series. In this week's edition, Mayor Angie Devanney provides an update on how the Biden stimulus bill impacts the Township of Berkeley Heights budget. 

TAPinto: How can Berkeley Heights possibly benefit from the passing of the stimulus bill?

Devanney: Back in late February, NJO listed all the towns and the aid that they were proposing. Now that the bill is out of the House, that [number] has been significantly reduced. I think they were guesstimating that Berkeley Heights would get $2.5 million, it's really going to be more like $1.3 million. 

The bill is in the Senate, we're hearing that moderate Democrats have reached a deal with the Biden administration, which would give them the 50 votes, the assumption as the Vice President would break, or add the 51st vote and that the bill would pass.

What we're hearing is that Union County will receive $129 million dollars. And again, of that, Berkeley Heights would get $1.3 million, and it's solely based on population. That's how the formula works. 

TAPinto: When would we possibly receive the money? And is it earmarked to go towards something specific?

Devanney: We're hoping within the next few weeks. The other thing that we're being told is that the US Treasury will wire the money directly to the State of New Jersey. And then the State of New Jersey is required once they're in receipt of those funds within 30 days to wire those funds to the municipality. That's hopefully some good new -- relief will be here quickly. 

I haven't seen the rules or regulations. And until we really see those, we don't know for sure. But we're told that it is a more flexible bill that really helps municipalities with the loss of revenues. -- We lost a tremendous amount of money from the hotel occupancy tax because the hotel was closed, people weren't staying in it. Likewise, our courts were closed. And there's a significant amount of revenue that comes from that as well. And just other revenues that the pandemic really shut down our government economy. --- We're hopeful that we'll be able to use the funds for that.

Other areas that this funding could help include: DPW, Sewer Plant, and Police Department. "[They] had to put in extra efforts in 2020 because of the pandemic, and we're hopeful that perhaps maybe we can use it for some of those things that we already paid for."

TAPinto: Anything new to report in regard to lifting COVID-19 restrictions?

Devanney: Not that I'm aware of. The Biden administration did put out a directive that the President would like all teachers to be vaccinated by the end of March. --- They're dedicating all resources to try to figure out how to manage that and what the logistics will be. So, that's some good news.

And also, I want to mention in this bill, there are also provisions for unemployment benefits being extended, some specific help for restaurants, some help for renters, and some additional funding for the distribution of the vaccine.

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As of Friday, March 5, there were seven new community COVID cases reported, 35 active cases and zero vulnerable population institute cases -- for a total of 1,027 reported cases since onset of pandemic. There have been 60 LTC deaths, seven Berkeley Heights resident deaths. Visit the Berkeley Heights Township website for latest COVID-19 updates.

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