NEW JERSEY — Governor Phil Murphy announced at his Thursday press conference that federal emergency aid has been made available for New Jersey through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to supplement state and local recovery efforts affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The action makes federal funding available for Crisis Counseling for affected individuals; funding is also available to the state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for Category B emergency protective measures. The Governor said the declaration is unrelated to the $2 trillion bill passed by the Senate.

Gov. Murphy indicated there are 2,492 new positive coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 6,876 in the state.  There are 81 people who have died.

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He said the counties in New Jersey with the greatest number of confirmed cases are:

  • Bergen County, at 1,206
  • Essex County, at 609
  • Middlesex County, at 505
  • Monmouth County, at 501
  • Hudson County, at 441
  • Union County, at 432

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli responded to a question about what the health department is doing to track nurses and doctors to monitor staffing levels.  She said they keep a tally of impacted health care workers, and get directly notified from the CEO of a hospital if there is a health care worker that expires as a result of COVID-19. 

She added that they did receive notice Thursday morning of the loss of a part-time health care worker in the northern part of the state.

Persichilli said on Thursday the NJ Department of Corrections has three new cases, a total of 4 overall.  She said none of the affected officers came into contact with any inmates.

Persichilli reiterated that there are 2,492 new cases, bringing the total number of positive cases in the state to 6,876.  There are 19 new deaths, she said, with three associated with long-term care facilities; 4 are in Essex County, 3 in Bergen County, 2 in Monmouth County, 2 in Morris County, and 1 in Somerset County.

"In this age of social media we urge you to maintain your sense of community.  Stay in touch with one another.  Reach out to your elderly relatives, and reach out to your elderly neighbors," Persichilli urged.

The Governor said coronavirus does not spread on its own, but person to person, and the slower the spread, the flatter the curve gets.  He urged residents to, "Please, please, please continue to stay home."

He noted he has been made aware that some school districts are advising families when schools will reopen.  He stressed he is not prepared to make any decisions until at least April 17.

Gov. Murphy called Thursday morning's unemployment numbers a "real gut punch" as both a nation and a state.  He said 155,000 workers in New Jersey filed for unemployment benefits, 16 times the number of people who filed the week before.

The Governor said the State's ask from the national strategic stockpile includes Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE — 4.5 million N95 masks, 2,500 ventilators, and, "frankly, everything in between," including gloves and gowns.

"Regarding PPE," he said, "we have created an online form through which businesses and non-hospital health care facilities in possession of PPE not required for the provision of critical healthcare services, whereby that form you can submit information about their inventory."  Per Executive Order 109, this information must be submitted by Friday at 5 p.m., and the form is available at covid19.nj.gov/ppereport.

Anyone with PPE donations, the Governor said, can reach out at covid19.nj.gov/ppedonations.  To date, the State has received 750 emails, up from 350 two days ago.

Corporate partners have stepped up, the Governor noted, in a big way; one example was L'Oreal, agreeing to provide hand sanitizer, "which we absolutely need."

Gov. Murphy said as a part of the Main Street Stimulus focus, the Economic Development Authority Board met virtually earlier in the day to approve an initial $75 million program to help stabilize the many small businesses who are the most vulnerable among employers for the economic shock waves from this emergency.

RELATED: NJEDA Announces New Initiatives to Support Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

"Overall this program will be able to provide direct financial assistance and support for, we believe, between 3,000 and 5,000 small businesses.  And it bears repeating — the majority of New Jerseyans work for small businesses.  So this isn't just about supporting our small and mid-size business owners,  which it is — it's also about supporting the men and women who work for them.  Our recovery begins with our small businesses.”

Gov. Murphy said, "An EDA $5 million emergency grant program will provide direct near-term cash assistance to the smallest and most vulnerable of businesses." 

Ten million dollars would be allocated to zero interest loans for small and medium-size enterprises who need direct financial support.  There would be greater support for private sector lenders, and in particular, community-based lenders. And there would be help for direct financial support for entrepreneurs and other early-stage firms that cannot access traditional banking resources due to this emergency. 

Businesses and organizations needing more information should visit cv.business.nj.gov.

The Governor said, "The jobs portal created for New Jerseyans whose jobs were cut because of this emergency, but who still want to work and want to join our tremendous front line response team by working at one of our essential employers remains accessible through our one-stop site covid19.nj.gov.  The number of job postings on this site has grown at a pace that I don't think anyone could have expected.  As of today, more than 35,000 job openings are being posted by more than 300 essential employers."

The Governor said as of Monday since they put it online, the jobs portal has been accessed by 230,000 job seekers.