By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
UNION CITY, N.J. — New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy doesn’t often find himself trending on Twitter. He earned that distinction on Wednesday thanks to his actions during what was otherwise a routine bill signing announcement.
Gov. Murphy was announcing a new legislative package that will prevent housing evictions and support New Jersey residents who are behind on their utility payments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the most headline-grabbing part of the day came when the Governor’s attention shifted to anti-vaccine protestors who stood at the back of the event.
“These folks back there have lost their minds — you’ve lost your minds,” Gov. Murphy yelled, pointing at a group of individuals. “You are the ultimate knuckleheads, and because of what you are saying and standing for, people are losing their life. People are losing their life and you have to know that. Look in the mirror! Look in the mirror!”
The people who drew Gov. Murphy’s ire were holding signs that said things like “NO FORCED INJECTIONS,” “GOV MURPHY GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY,” and “FORCED MEDICAL PROCEDURES ARE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.” The Governor’s strong reaction to the anti-vaccine protests drew applause from the crowd, which also begun chanting “Murphy, Murphy!”
New Jersey has not instituted any sort of COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the general public at the time of publication. However, the state will require employees in certain high-risk settings, including health care and state prisons, to be vaccinated by September 7 or be subject to regular weekly COVID-19 testing. Even though the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, many are still hesitant to get inoculated — mostly due to personal preference or the widespread misinformation surrounding the vaccine models.
At any rate, the legislation Gov. Murphy signed Wednesday will provide an additional $750 million in funding to assist residents who are behind on their rent or utility payments. Of that total, $500 million will be allocated to the COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program, and the remaining money will go towards utility assistance. Both programs are run by New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs.
Additionally, New Jersey’s eviction moratorium has been extended through August, and individuals who haven’t been able to pay their rent or utilities now have even more protections because of the bill keeping their court records pertinent to missed payments confidential.
“We have heard the continuing calls for help from New Jerseyans who are struggling to pay their rent and utilities. COVID-19 has put tenants and landlords in a difficult place, and I am pleased to say that more assistance is on the way,” Gov. Murphy said. “This bill is going to direct money to the people and programs that need it most. Housing and access to utilities are fundamental to human health and safety and we want to ensure that as many eligible applicants impacted by the pandemic get the help they need during this challenging time.”
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