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Governor Murphy Extends Temporary Hold on Utility Shutoffs Until March 2021

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Credit: Edwin J. Torres/ Governor's Office

Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order on Thursday that prolongs the statewide moratorium on utility shutoffs until March 15, 2021.

What We Know:

  • This decision prevents all water, electric, and gas shutoffs for residential and business clients due to nonpayment. Cable providers must allow the same relief for internet and voice services through November 15, 2020. Additionally, if a household has school-age children, their internet connectivity cannot be cut off through at least March 15, 2021.
  • According to the NJ Board of Public Utilities, more than 440,000 New Jersey residents owe gas and electric bills that are at least 90 days overdue. Additionally, almost 43,000 commercial customers are having the same problem with bills costing around $1,300.

  • Murphy advised customers struggling to pay their bills to work with their utility company and the board of public utilities to see if they qualify for a payment assistance program.
  • Despite allowing services to remain on, the moratorium, however, does not wipe away the customer’s owed balance.
  • Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso stated:

“Eventually, everyone has to pay their bill; everyone must reach out to the utility companies[your utility], set up a payment plan so that at the end of the moratorium you’re not faced with such a gigantic bill that it becomes overwhelming.”

  • Larry Levine, Senior Attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council, thanked Governor Murphy’s continuous leadership. Due to Governor Murphy’s decision, thousands of New Jerseyans will not have to worry about their water being cut-off or losing power as the winter months approach. He also mentioned that this is an important step that will help relieve much hardship and save lives.
  • Utility businesses like PSEG, JCP&L, and Atlantic City Electric have stated their support for the extension. At least this can give some sort of peace to New Jersey residents.

Both Murphy’s moratorium extension and utility payment plans aim to soften the financial blow for New Jersey residents and businesses.

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Coronavirus

Disneyland Will Serve As A ‘Super’ Covid-19 Vaccination Site

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Disneyland in Anaheim, California will become a mass Covid vaccine distribution site, according to Orange County officials.

What We Know:

  • Disneyland Resort will become the first of five “super point-of-dispensing” (super POD) locations whose large capacity makes it possible to inoculate thousands of people every day. The decision came as the state reported over 30,000 new cases and 264 deaths on Monday.
  • Orange County supervisor, Doug Chaffee, said in a statement that super POD sites will be “absolutely critical in stopping this deadly virus”. California Governor Gavin Newsom revealed other super POD locations across the state, including Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, Cal Expo in Sacramento, and Petco Park in San Diego which should be opening to the public this week.
  • “We recognize that the current strategy is not going to get us to where we need to go as quickly as we all need to go,” Governor Newsom said. “That’s why we’re speeding up the administration not just for priority groups but opening up large sites to do so.” Newsom said the state’s goal was to vaccinate 1 million people by the weekend.
  • “Disneyland Resort is proud to help support Orange County and the City of Anaheim with the use of our property, and we are grateful for all of their efforts to combat COVID-19,” Dr. Pamela Hymel, Chief Medical Officer, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, told CBS News. “After a year in which so many in our community have faced unprecedented hardship and uncertainty, there is now reason for optimism with the administration of a vaccine.”
  • The park has been closed to the public since mid-March when the pandemic began, which contradicts its sister resort, Walt Disney World in Florida, which has been open since July, with a reduced number of guests.

California ranks 42nd out of 50 states in its vaccination rate per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control data.

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US Breaks ‘Deadliest’ Day Record with 4,327 COVID-19 Deaths Reported

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Johns Hopkins University has recorded a new record in U.S. coronavirus deaths in a single day.

What We Know: 

  • More than 4,300 U.S. deaths were recorded by Johns Hopkins University Tuesday, a new record. The nation’s death toll surpassing 380,000. In the eighth consecutive day of new cases topping over 200,000, Tuesday recorded 215,000 new cases. The Wall Street Journal reports more than 22.8 million people have tested positive for the virus. 
  • The new record of 4,327 deaths surpasses the previous records. A little less than a week ago, 4,194 deaths were recorded on January 7th. In the spring during New York’s surge, 2,598 deaths were recorded on April 15th. 
  • Hospitals across the county have become overloaded. One hundred thirty-one thousand people were hospitalized for the virus Tuesday. The number of patients in intensive care is 23,881, the 14th day in a row above 23,000. 
  • As numbers continuously rise, the Trump administration attempts to release more vaccines. Reserved booster shots are now big given to anyone over the age of 65 and people with high-risk health concerns. 
  • Dr. Amanda Castel, a professor in the epidemiology department at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, commented on the numbers. “The numbers are not heading in the right direction, and they are an indication that our response has not been adequate.”
  • At the current pace of infection, death tolls are expected to reach above 400,000 by next week. About equal to the number of American military personnel who died in World War II.

Castel believes that social-distancing, mask-wearing, testing, and vaccines will be necessary to see the virus’s decline or stabilization. 

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Scammers Reportedly Stole $36 Billion in U.S Unemployment Benefits

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Pixabay/PA Images

The U.S. has put billions of dollars into the unemployment system since the spring, an attraction for criminals that have led to growing theft and fraud attacks. This has led to at least $36 billion being taken from out-of-work Americans.

What We Know:

  • As if things were not bad enough, now, the federal government and states are adding extra precautions. The $900 billion Covid relief package signed last month added steps for workers to confirm their eligibility for benefits.
  • Most of the theft has centered on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a temporary program created by the federal CARES Act in March. It provides unemployment benefits to workers who don’t usually qualify, like the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers, contractors, and part-timers.
  • Con artists are drawn to a possible massive payday, perhaps more than $10,000 or $20,000 per fraudulent claim, and the lax security measures initially put in place to rush money to Americans.

  • By early November, at the very minimum, $36 billion of the $360 billion in CARES Act unemployment benefits was lost due to incorrect payments, principally from fraud, as stated by a conservative estimate from the Inspector General’s Office for the Department of Labor.
  • “This is the largest fraud attack on the U.S. ever. Period” mentioned Blake Hall, founder and chief executive of ID.me, a company that provides an identity verifying service to more than a dozen state unemployment offices. “And it’s not even remotely close.” Fraudulent claims for benefits can make up for roughly 35% to 40% of new applications in some states with generous weekly payouts, Hall stated. He said international organized crime rings from countries like China, Ghana, Nigeria, and Russia account for most attacks.
  • Their fraud can take many structures. Hall said the most common is identity theft, how criminals steal personal data to file a claim in someone else’s name. In some similar scams, attackers persuade victims to confirm their identity to get a job or win a prize.

“Not only are they evil thieves, but they’re also hurting people who need this money in their pocket right now, intensely,” Bill McCamley, who heads the state of New Mexico unemployment agency expressed of criminals.

However, some now fear the new terms to tighten security and protect against fraud could set back benefits to Americans who need them immediately.

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