TRENTON – When you are a struggling business during a pandemic, and the state suddenly throws out $45 million in federal funds on a first-come, first-served basis, expect to be part of a frenzy, right? Well, of course. And that is why the state Economic Development Authority faced an immediate 19,500 applicants in the first few hours yesterday morning, with all of these small businesses praying for a slice of the pie. That pie was divvied up into pieces maxing out at $10,000, so you can guess that many were left hungry. And what about all the other businesses that had zero clue this hand-out was even coming? This is the second time the EDA has thrown a bucket of cash out the window during the pandemic – the first one contained just $5 million and was promptly overwhelmed by some 32,000 applicants. Can’t there be a more equitable system for distribution, especially for frazzled, desperate business owners who don’t have time to keep current on fast-fleeting EDA grant programs? 

HOWELL – The Howell High School Rebels are being, well, Rebels, in refusing to change the name of the mascot who seems to celebrate the Confederacy. Students and alums are saying it’s time to put the Rebel in the history books. NJ 101.5 reports the school district has been slowly phasing out the Rebel, a cartoonish Confederate soldier with an oversized hat and handlebar mustache. “Dixie” is no longer the school’s fight song; the mascot has been replaced with the simple image of an "H." There’s a Change.org petition for this campaign, as well, as petitioners are also asking the school to abolish the Rebel Yell. Since June 7, there have been 2,347 signers. And, since June 8, there have been 1,610 signers of a counter-petition, demanding that things stay just the way they are, celebrating the school’s roots as Southern Freehold Regional High School. The petitioners argue, “To change the mascot would be an attempt to erase history and nobody wants that.” Really?? 

STATEWIDE – There’s absolutely no doubt that retailers are eagerly awaiting to reopen, as they try to somehow salvage 2020. It’s just that it is near impossible, they say, to figure out the ever-changing state regulations and ensure safety of customers and employees. The Record spoke with retail owners, who have a laundry list of questions. For example: Is clothing returnable? If so, would it then need to be sanitized? Can shoppers touch the merchandise? Are customers required to wear gloves? Can the virus live on clothing and for how long? Can there really be “contactless shopping” when you need dressing rooms? Assume many other good questions, too. State officials say that additional guidance could be forthcoming, and obviously welcomed.

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BRIEFING BREATHER

In Quebec, margarine must be a different color than butter.

STATEWIDE - We had elections in 31 New Jersey municipalities on May 12 for municipal positions, school boards and the like. They were conducted entirely by mail, for obvious reasons. The folks at NJ Spotlight have done some analysis of the results and found that about one in 10 votes were rejected either because election officials adjudged that the signature on the ballot did not match the one on file, the ballot arrived late or the required certificate was not enclosed, among other reasons. The rejection rate was more than three times higher than in the 2018 general election. It has sparked a couple of lawsuits already. And, maybe NJ Spotlight is understating things a smidge when then write that it “could forebode the potential disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of New Jerseyans in next month’s primaries.” Just what we need: electoral chaos on top of a public health crisis.

TRENTON – Remember that state budget that’s supposed to be adopted by June 30? Probably not, as there have been plenty of distractions these days. But the state does need to adopt a fiscal '21 budget at some point. It’s just that Gov. Phil Murphy is not saying when. The governor says there are some glaring unknowns before he can resubmit a spending plan to the state Legislature. There are questions about federal aid and how much cash the state can borrow to dig out of this mess. NJ Globe reports the rubber hits the road on Aug. 25, the deadline for a budget to be handed to the state Legislature for what would be a nine-month annual budget (if that is possible.) No clue what’s going to happen, but it all makes for some late-summer, pre-election drama, which we will need to fill this newsletter.

STATEWIDE – It’s not your grandmother’s sex ed. New Jersey has released all new sex education standards, as it dispels the long-standing belief that babies come out of belly buttons. In fact, the new curriculum talks about stuff that teens really need to learn, like the sticky world of relationships, pregnancy and consent. The curriculum, which the state Board of Education adopted by a vote of 8-4, is a fresh, modern take on what our kids need to know when anything they can possibly want to see is readily available on the Internet. The new curriculum hits topics of abortion, gender identity and all the other controversial stuff that wasn’t in those “Your Body and You” film strips. The new curriculum is all about student safety, health and inclusiveness, designed to teach kids what they really need to know.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

KUSADASI, TURKEY – It remains unclear what you really accomplished during all these months at home, so let’s focus on some guy from Turkey who was able to create the smallest chess board ever recorded by man. The artist – who says he specializes in a thing called “micro sculpture” – was able to create a chess board, and all the pieces, measuring 0.35 inches by 0.35 inches. He is quick to note his chess set is two times smaller than the smallest chess board ever recorded, as he spent six hours a day over these long months on his one-of-a-kind creation. Check and mate, pal.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1990 that Burger King switched salad dressing. Apparently, that’s still news worth noting.

WORD OF THE DAY

Griffonage – [grif-fon-age] – noun

Definition: Careless handwriting

Example: Thankfully, we type this; our griffonage is the absolute worst.

WIT OF THE DAY

“We need the harm to stop in our communities. We need the damage to be repaired. We need to be able to have the opportunity to have a life of dignity, and the possibility to thrive.”

-Opal Tometi

Co-founder, Black Lives Matter

TODAY'S TRUMPISM

“Minnesota needs DJT.”

-Donald J. Trump

WEATHER IN A WORD

Steamy