C19 Open Discussion Week 50

Real Estate, Liquor, and the Grim Reaper … Damn I’m good.

Pandemic Tax Windfall for NJ: Receipts from House Sales and Liquor Boost State Revenues

At first the coronavirus pandemic slowed New Jersey’s real estate market, but a huge rebound followed, even as many other industries struggled.

“It’s COVID-19, that’s probably one of the main reasons,” said Robert White, a Monmouth County realtor who noted buyers fleeing New York City have driven demand in his region.

The surge in home sales means a boost for New Jersey’s bottom line since it generates more revenue from a tax on real-estate transactions.

And real estate is not the only industry seeing a rise in sales during the pandemic and with it a corresponding lift in state revenues.

Taxes from alcohol sales have been surging in New Jersey during the pandemic, as have state Lottery revenues.

State tax data shows that transfer-inheritance tax receipts have also increased significantly amid the health crisis. But there may be more to that than just the grim reflection of the deadly pandemic.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 49b

From the Star Ledger:

N.J. hotline tells callers they can’t book a COVID vaccine appointment over the phone, residents say 

You can’t book an appointment.

That’s what some callers say they are being told when they call the state’s vaccine hotline, even though state officials said Monday the system was set up to help to them secure a slot.

The representatives did not say the appointments were unavailable because they were all booked, frustrated people told NJ Advance Media. But instead, callers said they were told the workers didn’t have the capability to make appointments at all.

The confusion comes after Health Department commissioner Judy Persichilli said at the governor’s Monday coronavirus briefing that the hotline had started making appointments.

She said more than 600 appointments had been booked through the hotline since Wednesday. Over the weekend, she said, the call center took more than 16,000 calls, registered 514 people with the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System (NJVSS) and made appointments for 286 people.

“They started making first dose appointments last Wednesday,” Persichilli said, noting she wasn’t sure if second dose appointments were being made.

Faisel Muhammad of South Brunswick said he called the hotline on Tuesday and was turned away.

“The person told me to wait for the second email after registering with NJVSS, that it will have a link for setting up an appointment,” Muhammad said. “No phone appointments.”

Carol Rayside said when she called, a representative said “they can only register people and could not make appointments.”

Vincent Tamburro said his mother, who is over age 65, called the hotline and a representative told her “they don’t know why they aren’t able to schedule anything.” And when he tried the hotline himself, the representative said she couldn’t even get into the scheduling system.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 49

From the Star Ledger:

600 to lose jobs when N.J. Nabisco plant closes by end of summer

As many as 600 people could lose their jobs late this summer when the Nabisco plant in Fair Lawn closes, the borough’s mayor and the company said Thursday.

The North American division of Nabisco’s parent company, Mondelez International, said in November it was considering closing the 63-year-old plant and informed officials Thursday that its doors will shut in late August or early September, Mayor Kurt Peluso said in a Facebook Live on Thursday.

“It’s really sad news,” Peluso said. “It’s really sad news. Nabisco has been a big part of Fair Lawn. We’re disappointed to see it go and we feel horrible for all the employees.”

The plant produces baked goods under the Nabisco brand, including staples such as Oreo, Lorna Doone and Teddy Grahams.

Peluso said he was a part of a group of officials that included Gov. Phil Murphy and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) who were unsuccessful in talking Nabisco into staying in Bergen County. “It just sucks that through no fault of their own they’re losing their positions. We tried to persuade them to stay (but) we knew it was an uphill battle,” the mayor said.

The Fair Lawn facility is one of two on the East Coast slated to close — a factory in Atlanta will be shuttered while a Richmond, Virginia plant will stay open.

“Both Fair Lawn and Atlanta are no longer strategic assets from a geographic footprint perspective and both face significant operational challenges, including aging infrastructure and outdated production capabilities, which would have required significant investment to bring them to the modernized state required for the future,” the company said in a statement.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 48c

From the NY Times:

Age and gender are complicating vaccine skepticism among Black Americans. Health experts warned Super Bowl fans to keep up their guard. Wisconsin had a mask mandate. Then it didn’t. Then it did. Stay tuned.

Johnson & Johnson on Thursday submitted to the Food and Drug Administration an application for emergency authorization for its one-dose coronavirus vaccine, putting the company on track to potentially begin shipping it by early March.

The agency has scheduled a meeting with its outside advisory panel, which will vote on whether the F.D.A. should authorize the vaccine on Feb. 26, according to people familiar with the planning.

That leaves regulators about three weeks to pore over a large and complex application that includes clinical and manufacturing data. A decision on whether to authorize the vaccine could come within days of that meeting.

A similar timeline was used for the review of two-dose vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which were authorized by the F.D.A. in December.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 48b

From Eyewitness News:

Nj residents want answers after not receiving unemployment benefits for weeks

Tens of thousands of people in New Jersey are still waiting for unemployment benefits — more than a month after they should have been paid out.

“I’m a mess because I don’t have nothing,” said Bayonne resident Anette Guagliardo.

“We are in the process of selling our car to buy diapers for our daughter,” said new mom Savannah Krout.

“I don’t know how we are paying our mortgage for February 1st,” said Kristen Lopez, as she choked back tears.

Everyone that spoke to 7 On Your Side is an unhappy member of a trio of Facebook groups critical of New Jersey’s Department of Labor.

The groups are 53,000 members strong and many say they are owed at least five weeks of unemployment benefits.

“$4,052 I’m down,” said Anthony Larose.

“My husband and I are owed $6,700,” said Marguerite.

“We need answers – we need communication to plan, I have exhausted all my resources,” Lopez said.

New Jersey’s Department of Labor says more than 75,000 residents – about 5% of all claimants – had their unemployment benefits run out after December 26.

A day later, then-President Trump signed the second stimulus bill authorizing 11 more weeks of unemployment, plus an additional $300 per week– federal money to be distributed by states.

“They say they’re on top of it, but they are not,” said unemployment recipient Joanne.

And when they try to call the New Jersey Department of Labor, Kristin Baum said, “you could talk to five different people, they give you five different answers.”

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C19 Open Discussion Week 48

From Marketplace:

Are we in a housing bubble? 

Pending homes sales continued falling in December, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. Sales of existing homes that are under contract but haven’t closed dipped 0.3% from the previous month, the fourth monthly decline in a row.

When compared to the same month in the prior year, pending sales were still up more than 20% in December. But the month-to-month decline was a sign that high home prices — and tight supply — are starting to slow down sales.

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index released this week, home prices were up 9.5% in November, and even higher in cities like Phoenix, Seattle and San Diego.

Such increases are reminiscent of the housing bubble in the mid-2000s, when a combination of low interest rates and loose lending standards fueled double-digit price appreciation.

Economists say today’s market is very different.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘bubble,’ “ said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin. “Bubble implies that it’s speculation that’s driving home prices high, and it really is the fundamentals of the market.”

Demand is high, thanks partly to record-low interest rates, while the supply of homes for sale is at an all-time low.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell was asked about a housing bubble at a news conference Wednesday. He called the recent price jumps “a passing phenomenon.”

“There’s a one-time thing happening with people who are spending all of their time in their house, and they’re thinking, either ‘I need a bigger house, or I need another house and a different house, or a second house’ in some cases,” Powell said.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 47b

From the Star Ledger:

N.J. teachers ‘next up to bat’ for COVID vaccine eligibility, Murphy says. He hasn’t said when.

New Jersey teachers are “next up to bat” to receive a vaccination for the coronavirus when eligibility expands, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday. But how soon they’ll be able to get the shot remains unanswered.

Murphy, speaking during a morning CNN interview, said he understands the stress educators have to deal with while working during the pandemic. He has also advocated for as much in-person learning as possible, citing the benefit it has for students — particularly those who live in low-income households.

“When we add groups, I want to be able to add educators as fast as we can,” Murphy said.

“They’re in the on-deck circle,” he said. ”Educators are next up to bat.”

Currently, those eligible to receive the vaccine in New Jersey include health care workers, police, firefighters, long-term care residents, those over 65 years of age, those between 16 and 64 with certain health conditions and smokers. That’s more than 4 million people. The state has received 1.09 million doses from the federal government, according to the Centers for Disease Control tracker.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 47

From ROI-NJ:

Is it time to reconsider regional reopening plan?

New Jersey Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Bracken said he had little hope when his organization approached Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration about a regional reopening plan last summer. His inclination proved correct.

“It was something that we, along with other organizations, presented to the administration,” he said. “They summarily dismissed it, saying, ‘One size fits all is the way we’re going.’”

Bracken said there’s reason to hope that’s no longer the case. He feels a bill (S3093/A4910) to create Red-Yellow-Green regional reopening zones around the state — one that passed through Senate (5-0) and Assembly (11-0) committees unanimously — has a chance.

“If you listen to the governor today, he’s starting to say that things are looking a little better,” Bracken said. “And we’ve got an economy that’s in the dump. So, I think this is one way to intelligently open the economy.”

The bill, which is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), will certainly reach the Senate floor for a vote.

And, while passing the Senate — and the Assembly — is no guarantee of success (see the recent outdoor dining bill), there is one other thing that’s different in 2021: It’s an election year.

“That can only help,” Bracken said.

Christina Renna, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, certainly hopes. Her group also presented a regional reopening plan last summer, only to see it shot down.

The idea still makes sense to her.

“Encouraging a wider reopening of the state’s economy and caring about the health, safety and welfare of the state’s residents are not and should never be categorized as mutually exclusive,” she said. “A statewide, one-size-fits-all approach that refuses to consider the vast disparities in health metrics throughout different geographical areas of New Jersey has unnecessarily stalled portions of our economy. However, a geographic approach that collectively evaluates the health and demographic data in certain areas of the state is a reasonable method to decide where certain businesses can safely have higher occupancy rates and quicker reopenings.”

Renna, as the governor himself might say, appears to be following the data.

“This approach simply makes sense — and, if a geographic-based reopening plan has worked for many states in the nation, why can it not work in New Jersey?”

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C19 Open Discussion Week 46c

From NJ Insider:

NJDOL: State Unemployment Rate At 7.6%

Preliminary estimates produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that total nonfarm wage and salary employment in New Jersey decreased in December by 7,700 to reach a seasonally adjusted level of 3,890,000. Losses were recorded in both the private (-7,100) and public (-600) sectors of the state’s economy. 

The state’s unemployment rate fell by 2.6 percentage points to 7.6 percent in December, primarily due to New Jersey residents leaving the labor force rather than finding employment.  

The December data suggest that employment recovery from its pandemic-related April low point appears to have stalled in the 4th quarter of the year. New Jersey has regained a total of 479,400 jobs in the six months since April, or about 58 percent of jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic and measures taken in response to it. However, since September, total employment has contracted by 2,100 jobs. See the technical notes at the end of this release for information about the impact of the coronavirus on this month’s employment estimates. 

Based on more complete reporting from employers, previously released total nonfarm employment estimates for November were revised higher by 1,400 to show an over-the-month (October – November) increase of 8,500 jobs.  Preliminary estimates had indicated an over-the-month gain of 7,100 jobs. The state’s revised November unemployment rate was unchanged, remaining at 10.2 percent. 

In December, employment decreases were recorded in only four out of nine major private sectors. Sectors that recorded employment decreases include leisure and hospitality (-8,900), financial activities (-1,900), education and health services (-1,600) and information (-1,300). Sectors that recorded employment increases include construction (+3,100), professional and business services (+2,900), manufacturing (+300), trade, transportation, and utilities (+200), and other services (+200). The public sector recorded a decrease of 600 jobs over the month. 

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C19 Open Discussion Week 46b

From CNBC:

Yellen says U.S. must ‘act big’ on next coronavirus relief package

Janet Yellen, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to run the Treasury Department, will tell the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that the government must “act big” with its next coronavirus relief package.

Biden, who will be sworn into office on Wednesday, outlined a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal last week, saying bold investment was needed to jump-start the economy and accelerate the distribution of vaccines to bring the virus under control.

“Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big,” Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, said in a prepared opening statement for her hearing before the committee.

“I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time,” she said in the statement, which was obtained by Reuters.

The proposed aid package includes $415 billion to bolster the U.S. response to the virus and the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, some $1 trillion in direct relief to households, and roughly $440 billion for small businesses and communities particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

Many Americans would receive stimulus payments of $1,400, which would be on top of the $600 checks approved in a pandemic relief bill passed by Congress last month. Supplemental unemployment insurance would also increase to $400 a week from the current $300 a week, and it would be extended to September.

In her prepared testimony, Yellen also says the U.S. economy must be rebuilt “so that it creates more prosperity for more people and ensures that American workers can compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

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C19 Open Discussion Week 46

From the Star Ledger:

N.J.’s vaccination rate is the worst in the Northeast. See how other states compare. 

Posted in General | 108 Comments

C19 Open Discussion Week 45b

From the Star Ledger:

N.J. unemployment exceeds 1.9 million filings since March. $300 payments hit bank accounts next week. 

More than 1.9 million unemployment claims have filed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, and new claims are starting to climb again, the Department of Labor announced Thursday.

Nearly 21,000 new claims were filed for the week ending Jan. 2, an increase of 2.6% from the previous week’s 20,460 filings, the department said. Claims have been spiking since November, largely due to the holiday season and stormy weather, and have risen for five weeks straight, according to the Labor Department.

Nearly $20.7 billion have been distributed in benefits since mid-March, when the Department of Labor received a huge flood of unemployment claims as businesses were forced to close in response to the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The average claimant has received more than $14,000 in benefits.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 45

From NJ Spotlight:

Murphy hails new tax break law as investment in state’s economy

Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law on Thursday a massive, $14 billion corporate tax-break bill that he said will help foster a stronger state economic recovery coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new law’s enactment comes less than a month after the bill was introduced and put on a fast track by lawmakers following a deal reached with Murphy that resolved several longstanding economic-development policy disagreements.

The governor and several lawmakers who attended a morning bill-signing event in Hamilton, Mercer County, focused on ways they said the tax breaks established by their compromise could help generate new jobs in a state that has been ravaged by the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.

“This is how we propel our economy moving forward to be a strong and resilient, post-COVID reality and future,” Murphy said.

The voluminous law updates economic-development tax-incentive programs that were allowed to expire more than a year ago as Murphy and fellow Democrats who control the Legislature were unable to reach an agreement to renew them.

The law also establishes several new programs to encourage things like historic preservation, brownfield remediation and the elimination of so-called food deserts in underserved communities. It also establishes tougher oversight provisions and labor protections and creates a new public-private venture-capital fund.

In all, the law would allow for up to $1.5 billion in tax breaks to be awarded annually over six years. The overall $9 billion allocation could be spread out  over seven years if the total value of awarded tax breaks doesn’t hit annual program caps in the first six years, according to the law. Another up to $2.5 billion in tax breaks could also be awarded for “transformative projects” over the six to seven years.

The law also sets aside $50 million in one-time funding for small-business assistance.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 44c

From Mansion Global:

U.S. Home Inventory Hits Historic Lows

Booming demand for U.S. homes drove the number of properties for sale to new lows in December, according to a report on Thursday. 

Nationwide, the number of homes for sale fell below 700,000 in December, the lowest in recent history, according to realtor.com. A flurry of demand that has vastly outpaced new listings to the market has steadily eroded U.S. housing inventory since the summer and caused home prices to surge. 

A housing shortage has been building for years, said Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s chief economist—especially at more affordable price points. 

But in December the combination of the holiday inventory slowdown and the pandemic buying trend caused it to dip to its lowest level in history,” Ms. Hale said in the report. She forecasted U.S. housing supply would remain low for at least a few more months as a winter surge in Covid-19 cases discourages sellers from entering the market. 

Buyers are facing an acute shortage of homes to choose from in cities like Austin, Texas; Denver; and Providence, Rhode Island. These and other areas like Dallas and Charlotte, North Carolina, had less than half the number of homes for sale as they did in December 2019. 

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C19 Open Discussion Week 44b

From the Hill:

Five metro areas with highest 2020 move outs located in NY, NJ: study

The five metro areas with the highest move outs in 2020 were located in New York and New Jersey, according to a study from moving company United Van Lines. 

The Nassau-Suffolk area in New York and the Bergen-Passaic area in New Jersey were the top two areas that experienced the greatest outbound migration, each seeing 81 percent outbound migration, according to the company’s 44th Annual National Migration Study

Trenton, N.J., saw 76 percent outbound, while New York City and Newark, N.J., both saw 72 percent outbound migration.

Areas that saw a high level of inbound moves were Wilmington, N.C., and Boise, Idaho, with 79 percent and 75 percent, respectively.

Overall, New Jersey topped the list of outbound locations, experiencing 70 percent in 2020. New York followed with 67 percent. Illinois, Connecticut and California were next on the list, with 67 percent, 63 percent and 59 percent, respectively. 

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