NEW JERSEY — Gov. Phil Murphy’s moves to promote social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus COVID-19 has had a sudden and powerful side effect on the state’s job market.
Murphy said Tuesday that a record number of New Jersey residents applied for unemployment insurance benefits on Monday.
In fact, so many went online to sign up that it crashed the state's website.
That some 15,000 residents signed up for benefits a day after Murphy moved to shut down gyms, casinos, racetracks and movie theaters and strongly discouraged non-essential overnight travel, prompted him to move swiftly for an economic remedy.
Murphy said he’s working with the Small Business Federation and the Small Business Administration for federal economic relief. He also called for banks to offer mortgage payment flexibility to customers and offer small business owners a line of credit.
He also called upon business owners in New Jersey to continue to keep employees on the payroll because “it’s the right thing to do."
“The emergency response bill currently moving through Congress in which we would hope would become law would provide employees with significant sick leave and family leave benefits,” Murphy said. “Not paying employees now might keep them from taking advantage of these.”
The bad news on the job market Tuesday didn’t keep Murphy from announcing more social distancing safeguards. All indoor shopping malls, amusement parks and amusement centers will be shuttered. Restaurants inside the malls or that have their own entrances can remain open, as long as they adhere to Monday’s directive to suspend eat-in dining and offer takeout and delivery only.
Judy Persichilli, the commissioner of the state’s department of health, said at the afternoon press conference that there are 89 new positive coronavirus COVID-19 cases in the state. That brings the total to 267 — including three fatalities.
There were 23 new cases in Bergen County, 11 in Essex, five in Middlesex and the first two reported cases in Gloucester.
Those that have tested positive range in age from 5 to 93.
Persichilli said the state is looking into the possibility of opening three shuttered hospitals to meet the anticipated demand in critical care beds. She said state officials are also looking into opening hospital wings that are currently not being used.