New Jersey Moves Toward Reopening After 60% Drop in Revenue

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the first steps for reopening the state as it saw April revenue plummet 60% from a year ago, evidence of the financial toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Retail businesses will be allowed to offer curbside pickup starting May 18, and restrictions will lift on non-essential construction work, Murphy said Wednesday at a news briefing. Customers won’t be permitted inside non-essential stores. “They will have to continue placing orders in advance,” Murphy said.

Murphy said improved virus data, not worsening finances, guided his reopening move. “We’ve got a series of steps that are logical priorities that are based first and foremost on health,” he said. Non-essential construction and limited retail were “in the earlier sets of steps that we thought we could take responsibly.”

New Jersey lost an unprecedented $3.5 billion of revenue in April. The data are the first full monthly tally since Murphy closed businesses, workplaces and government services on March 21.

“We are hopeful we will see much of these losses replaced” after the tax filing deadline, Murphy said. But he said an increased number of filers are likely to ask for extensions, underscoring the need for federal cash for state and local governments to fill revenue holes.

‘Fiscal Cliff’

May’s figures “will be similar or worse,” Murphy said. “This report shows the fiscal cliff we are now looking over the side of.”

The governor said he discussed the “economic outlook” in a telephone call with Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, during which the governor mentioned “taking advantage of the Fed’s lending facility.” Murphy has pitched borrowing billions of dollars from the U.S. Federal Reserve and other sources to plug budget holes and preclude potential firings of public workers for lack of money to pay them.

For the state’s fiscal health, April is crucial. Income-tax payments — the biggest slice of the state budget — are due mid-month. Murphy, following the federal government, extended the filing date to July 15.

New Jersey has the nation’s second-highest Covid-19 caseload after New York, with 1,028 new cases reported Wednesday for a total of 141,560. Deaths rose by 197, pushing the total to 9,702. But Murphy said in a Twitter post that “Data shows that we are ready to begin to restart our economy.”

Of 1,226 patients in intensive- and critical-care units, 928 were on ventilators — representing the fourth-straight day that fewer than 1,000 people were relying on the machines.

The state has 14 new cases per 100,000 people, making its rate the highest among the largest U.S. states, Murphy said.

While 382 people were discharged from hospital care over the prior 24 hours, 364 more were newly admitted — a sign that social distancing and other precautions must remain in place, Murphy said.

“I’m all for getting this place wide open, but that’s a reality, folks,” Murphy said

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