(ABOVE: An empty Pershing Field—photo taken February 18, 2020)
In an announcement earlier today, Mayor Steven M. Fulop stated that the anticipated budget impact of Coronavirus will approach $70 million for Jersey City alone. He estimated that the City will face a $50 million in revenue loss coupled with $20 million in added expenses in response to the health crisis, and is looking to state and federal government for assistance with the recovery.
“There’s no playbook for us to follow on this and we are looking to save money wherever possible to minimize the impact for residents,” said Fulop. “It’s going to take time for us to recover, for our restaurants and small businesses to bounce back from this unimaginable crisis. That’s why we need help from the state and federal level.”
The losses take into account significant impacts to the Payroll Tax, economy layoffs, businesses being closed down, and the lack of Municipal Court fines, Construction Code fees, parking enforcement—among other critical financial factors.
The added $20 million in costs include unanticipated emergency purchases, increased health benefit costs, overtime, etc. All of this comes on top of fixed statutory obligations such as pension payments, health benefits, and union-negotiated salaries.
“The City Council is focusing not only on our response to this current crisis and what our residents are going through, but we also need to plan for what lies ahead and that reality comes with some really tough decisions,” said Council President Joyce Watterman. “I’m really proud of how Jersey City has been a leader for others to turn to during times of hardship, and I know we’ll tackle the next difficult phase that we all inevitably face. It’s the unfortunate truth, but it’s better to be prepared than be blindsided.”
Jersey City faces a wide array of economic impacts—including tourism to transportation—which make its situation relatively unique in the face of this health crisis.
“Per the Mayor’s direction, since day one of this crisis we’ve been carefully monitoring and reassessing potential implications of recent economic conditions,” said John Metro, Director of the city’s Department of Finance. “We are working to re-evaluate our city’s needs in a thoughtful and practical way to continue to harness a stable tax rate, while maintaining the critical services our residents rely on.”
The coronavirus comes just months after the City of Jersey City dealt with a mass shooting last December, which also had a significant impact on municipal resources.
“We’ve had two major crisis in the last few month here in Jersey City. The first, on December 10th with a mass shooting. And now, this international pandemic. I have no doubt that as long as we all work together, we’ll come out stronger on the other side of this,” concluded Fulop.