Monmouth County prepares for primaries, business openings
The amount of positive Covid-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations across the state continue to trend downward but the health and safety rules and regulations that have been in place for the last 10-weeks are still in play heading into the summer and businesses are still waiting for guidance on when they can reopen.
Instead of waiting for Governor Murphy to make decisions to reopen the state economy and in lieu of what those plans may entail, Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone is preparing a pitch for the Governor to let each county decide when to reopen and how to do so safely.
"We know our county, we know Monmouth County, we know what's best for our businesses and our residents to be able to work and achieve profit and more importantly to be safe," Arnone said. "I have to believe no business wants to open up and then close back up because of some scare or health issue that occurs in their building. I have the utmost faith in each and every one of our businesses."
The clock is ticking to leave enough time for businesses to build up some kind of revenue stream this summer and Arnone says they need to be able to open back up to prevent consequences later on.
"We have to open up everybody but do it safely and do with a plan but we can't wait because it's becoming dangerous," Arnone said. "What I'm pitching to the state, and I'm sure it's not going to be a popular one, is put it back into the counties hands. We know our county and we know our mayors. We're not going to make any decisions without talking to our mayors about what best fits their climate."
A decision by the Murphy Administration to reopen the state can't wait much longer so Arnone is hoping they will have a say in the reopening of their county to help spare the summer tourism season that is a huge part of their local economy.
"The people at the upper level just have to make those tough decisions but unfortunately those tough decisions can't wait. It's a short window and it needs to be made now, right now or the dangerous situation moving on after this season is going to be a lot of vacant establishments and a lot of people that are very much unemployed and in bad situations," Arnone said.
The shortened capacity regulations being discussed could prove detrimental to a great number of businesses and restaurants in Monmouth County.
"Let me be loud and clear, doing a 25-percent occupancy does not work," Arnone said.
He said they're discussing options that could help increase capacity safely particularly for parking whether it's in lots or municipal or county roads.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also presented a number of challenges and changes ahead of the July 7th primaries and adjustments are being made in Monmouth County.
"Every active registered Republican or Democrat voter will receive a mail-in ballot to vote in the July 7th primary election," Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon said.
This affects about 250,000 affiliated voters receiving a mail-in ballot but there's confusion among some of the 200,000 unaffiliated voters who will be receiving a special mail-in ballot application to apply for a ballot to vote in the election.
"There are some unaffiliated voters who are already on the permanent mail-in ballot list and they may be expecting to receive ballots for this election however according to the executive order they will not be receiving ballots, they will only be receiving applications to apply specifically for this July 7 primary election," Hanlon explained.
While the primaries will primarily be a mail-in ballot election, each municipality can have one open location but the challenge is finding a place to let voters in on July 7th.
"Our Board of Elections is currently working with all the municipal clerks from the 53 municipalities in Monmouth County to determine where these polling locations will be," Hanlon said.
There will only be paper provisional ballots for in-person voting with a limited number of voting machines for residents with a disability.
A primary election being held mostly on mail-in ballots leaves the door open to future elections as soon as November with similar precautions and protocols in place.
Hanlon explains that it's too early to speculate but they will be monitoring what happens in the next several weeks.
"We will see and I'm sure that the Governor and our Legislature will take a look at what occurs during this primary election to make that determination later on," Hanlon said.