By Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone
I hope everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving with their families! I would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.
Speaking of the holiday season, I want to remind everyone to shop and dine local. As part of the County’s continuing effort to help small businesses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have developed a new Made in Monmouth interactive directory just in time for the holiday season.
The Division of Economic Development’s Made in Monmouth team has launched an interactive vendor directory, which currently lists more than 85 Made in Monmouth vendors. Qualified vendors can register to be included in the new directory by going to www.madeinmonmouth.com. Shoppers can use the directory to find the perfect holiday gift.Residents can also go to the Grown in Monmouth website to find local Christmas tree farms, restaurants, garden centers and more. The Grown in Monmouth program is designed to help retain and grow the County’s agriculture industry.
Additionally, I was happy to support some of our local small businesses over the past weekend, in honor of Small Business Saturday. One of the businesses I had a chance to visit was The Atlantic Club in Manasquan. During the visit,I was given a tour of the facilities to see the preventative measures and precautions they have taken to operate safely during COVID19. I want to commend them for the great work they are doing to keep their members healthy and safe. Like many other industries, the health industry is doing its best to survive these difficult times and any support we can offer them is helpful.
I alsowant to remind our small business owners that we have expanded the Monmouth County CARES Economic Assistance Grant Program and are allowing small businesses to apply for an additional $10,000—for a total of up to $20,000 in grant money. Any small business that has already applied and submitted expenses in excess of $20,000 does not need to do anything—your application will be reviewed and eligible expenses will be processed. If you submitted more than $10,000 but less than $20,000 and have incurred additional expenses, please submit them as soon as possible.
If you are a small business that has yet to apply for the grant, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. To apply for a grant, small business owners can go to www.MonmouthCountyCares.com or call 732-375-2196, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.The application is relatively simple and all you need is your tax return to get started. To date, we have received more than 3,447 applications and dispersed more than $19.5 million.
On another note, I know that the State has been closely monitoring how our small businesses, especially restaurants, have been operating during the pandemic. There has been no indication that recent outbreaks stem from small business establishments. Unfortunately, it seems as if a majority of the recent increase in cases is due to gathering and parties at private residencies. I sincerely hope that the State looks closely at each individual situation before taking extreme action. These businesses have been devastated by the restrictions placed on them during the pandemic and their livelihoods, as well as the livelihoods of their employees, are at stake. Most of our small businesses are following the State mandated guidelines and have taken the necessary precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of their patrons. Again, I strongly urge the State to look closely at these situations on an individual basis before making hasty decisions.
Lastly, I am proud to say that my fellow Freeholders and I have increased the number of tests administered at each of theCounty’s free COVID-19 testing sites.The number of tests administered at each site has been increased from 150 to 200 tests daily. My fellow Freeholders and I understand that the communities in Monmouth County require additional testing sites at this time. While getting tested is important, residents must also remember to practice social distancing, wear face coverings, wash their hands and stay home when they are sick.
Residents with general questions or concerns about the COVID-19 are able to contact the Monmouth County Health Department (MCHD) phone bank by calling 732-845-2070 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
When the phone bank is not operational, please visit the MCHD website at www.visitmonmouth.com/health for general information related to COVID-19. Residents can also visit the NJ 211 website for additional information at www.nj211.org/coronavirus-covid-19 or by dialing 2-1-1.
If you would like to read more Monmouth County news updates and information regarding the COVID-19 situation, go to www.visitmonmouth.com.
As always, it’s a privilege to serve as your Freeholder.