Next Phase of COVID Stimulus Small Business Grants to Be Distributed In Ocean County
Ocean County government and the state board for economic development have partnered to deliver an additional $10 million in small business grants as part of the national COVID stimulus package.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has received $45 million, which is in the process of being distributed through the state. The present funds are specifically earmarked for Ocean County.
The grants are part of Phase 2 of the Authority’s Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program.
Earlier phases provided grants of up to $5,000 to businesses hard-hit by the pandemic. The present phase raises that level to $10,000 and expands eligibility to include businesses and non-profits with up to 25 full-time employees. One third of the funds are designated for businesses in “opportunity zones,” which includes most of downtown Lakewood. Grants are awarded on a first come, first served basis.
“The Ocean County business community faces some unique challenges related to tourism and hospitality representing such a high percentage of its economic activity,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “These businesses were hit earliest and hardest by the pandemic, and these grants will help to sustain them as we enter the busy summer season.
Officials Oppose Early Release for Convict Whose False Claim Led To Death of Trooper
Local elected officials voiced strong opposition to the proposed early release of a woman whose false alarm call to the police resulted in the death of a state trooper.
“Out of respect for the Trooper’s family and all the men and women across the state who risk their lives to protect citizens and enforce our laws, I hope the Governor will think twice about releasing this reckless felon from prison,” said Senator Robert Singer (R-Ocean). “The administration should do the right thing and ensure she serves out the duration of her sentence.”
In 2011, Diana Hoffman, now 40, claimed that she was being held by an armed hijacker after she fled a traffic stop on the Garden State Parkway. The call prompted a police search. Once of the responders was Trooper Marc Castellano, a 29-year-old father of two, who was fatally hit by a vehicle while searching along I-95 in Howell. The incident prompted the passage of a law requiring drivers to switch out of the right lane when they pass a first responder stopped roadside, and a portion of the highway was renamed in the trooper’s memory.
Hoffman was sentenced to 15 years for the false claim that led to Officer Castellano’s death, which was added to a seven-year sentence for an unrelated charge.
She has been denied a request for parole, but discussion of an early release began when her name appeared on a list of 25 inmates eligible to be let go as part of the state’s efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in its prisons.
It is unclear how Hoffman’s name got to the list, and Governor Phil Murphy has publicly expressed opposition to her release.
Assemblymen Sean Kean and Edward Thomson joined the voices opposing her release.
“This public health crisis should not be used as an excuse to release this woman — or any other inmate — from paying their debt to society,” said Assemblyman Kean (R-Monmouth).
“Just like we will never forget the sacrifice of Trooper Castellano, we cannot forget that Diana Hoffman’s lies resulted in the death of this incredible young man,” said Assemblyman Thomson. “Granting her early release is a slap in the face to Marc Castellano’s family, who suffered a devastating loss because of her selfish and irresponsible decisions.”
Two Arrested for Assault On Second Street
Two men were arrested for an attack they carried out on Second Street.
According to the Lakewood Police Department, Mocollie Marby, 58, was assaulted last Thursday evening in front of Pine Cone Liquors on the busy shopping street. When police arrived, the two suspected assailants fled, but they were identified by a witness at the scene and later apprehended.
Gregorio Zepeda, 25, and Jose Perz Moreno, 30, both of Lakewood, have been charged with second- degree assault.
The victim is expected to make a full recovery.
Rep. Smith Welcomes New Sanctions on Chinese Officials
Congressman Chris Smith welcomed sanctions recently imposed on several members of the Chinese Communist Party over continued efforts to limit freedoms in Hong Kong.
“In seeking to destroy the ‘high degree of autonomy’ Beijing promised the Hong Kong people, as enshrined in treaty, and in interfering with the right of the people to peaceably assemble and lobby for democracy, these Communist Party officials deserve to be stripped of visas that would allow them to travel to the United States. Having introduced the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in the House of Representatives, it is especially gratifying for me to see the administration take a stand for freedom and against tyranny,” he said.
In 1997, Hong Kong was transferred from the rule of Great Britain to that of China under an agreement that the region would continue to enjoy the liberties and autonomy it was granted under the decades of British rule. Many years of incremental efforts by the Chinese government came to a head last year over a series of moves that limited freedoms and extended laws more similar to those in mainland China.
Rep. Smith has been outspoken against China’s actions over Hong Kong and has been targeted by the ruling Communist Party’s international propaganda outlets. He was prime sponsor of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was debated and passed by the House on October 15, 2019.