A new school year is officially upon us and though it may look different from past school years, we still must be extra cautious when driving around our communities!

It’s always important – and especially now that children are back in school – that everyone obeys speed limits, stops for pedestrians and avoids distractions when driving. It’s also important that pedestrians and children walking to school use crosswalks or cross at intersections and wait for the walk signal before stepping into the road.

As the school year begins, I will be sending notices to school districts once again to let them know I am always happy to meet with students, in-person or virtually, of all ages to discuss civics and the role of county government. Last year I had the opportunity to meet with students in several towns throughout the county including Colts Neck, Long Branch, Wall Township, Spring Lake Heights, Neptune City and Asbury Park. Best wishes to all our students on a great and successful school year!

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Additionally, many of our shore towns have decided to extend their beach season with additional lifeguard coverage. Their plans are published to our “Know Before You Go “page, which can be accessed on www.visitmonmouth.com . I held a conference call with our shore Mayors to advise them that the County will assist their towns with expenses they incur while keeping our beaches open for this extended period.

We are encouraging residents and visitors to continue enjoying the local businesses, beaches and restaurant offering outdoor dining beyond Labor Day. Our small businesses need our support now more than ever and we need to continue to support them. Make sure to check out our downtowns too. Many offer “pedestrian zones” with extended space for restaurant tables. Towns include Red Bank, Asbury Park and Manasquan.

As always, please remember to “Know Before You Go” and research the policies and regulations of your desired destination, before leaving your home. For more information about Shore municipalities rules and regulations, go to www.visitmonmouth.com.

Speaking of small businesses, I am urging the State to provide a timeline for when the next phase of reopening at 50% capacity will be so that our businesses can be prepared. As long as our numbers stay low and no major incidents arise, I see no reason for our restaurant and small businesses to not be able to open indoors at 50% capacity. While 25% capacity is a start, it is an extremely low number that for most of our small businesses will not bring enough revenue to pay the bills.

As I am sure everyone is aware, I have been extremely vocal in calling on our State to allow indoor dining for weeks now and will continue to be vocal on this issue until all our businesses are allowed to reopen at normal capacities. I have always had the utmost faith in our restaurant owners – and all business owners – that they would do the right thing, follow all social-distancing policies and do everything else required and more to keep their customers and employees safe. We’ve witnessed an entire summer go by without any major incidents and, when issues did arise, they were addressed and immediately handled.

I hope the State will continue in the right path in allowing these businesses, and others, to reopen to their normal capacities in the coming weeks and get more people back to work.

Lastly, I want to update you of the Monmouth County CARES Act Small Business Grants. I am pleased to announce that as of today, Monmouth County has processed 1,165 of the 2071 grant applications that have been received and dispersed over $8 million in the last four weeks.

My fellow Freeholders and I stand strong in our decision to control and operate the program with the assistance of an outside consulting firm and will continue to support and assist our small business community.

For specific questions or concerns pertaining to the grant and the application process, please call the toll free number on the monnmouthcountycares.com website. The number is 732-375-2196, and you can call Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As always, it is an honor to serve as your Freeholder Director.

Sincerely,

Tom Arnone

Freeholder Director, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders