Business Report: New federal relief funds, tax holiday, worker shortage, college financial aid

New Jersey will soon receive $6.4 billion in new COVID-19 relief fund

Will New Jersey be providing more aid to unemployed workers or small businesses? Those options are on the table, as the state will soon receive $6.4 billion in new COVID-19 relief funds. States can also spend money to increase pay for essential workers, invest in infrastructure, or cover public health expenses, based on new guidance out this week from the federal government.

The federal government says the money can’t be used to pay down debt, cut taxes, or be placed in reserve funds. The Murphy administration is currently reviewing the new guidance. There’s another idea on the table to help struggling bars and restaurants: Some Republican state lawmakers are suggesting a sales tax holiday for four months. Under the bill, those establishments could keep up to $70,000 in taxable sales during that time.

The Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday heard testimony on a bill that would try to address the shortage of manufacturing workers in the state. The legislation would use state resources to promote career pathways in manufacturing for students at county colleges. The head of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, Aaron Fichtner, testified in support of the bill, saying it would help close the skills gap in the state. The New Jersey Business & Industry Assocation said the bill is more important than ever, as the state is facing a workforce crisis.

Meantime, that committee approved a bill that would help incoming college students and their parents understand just how much they are paying for school. That legislation requires schools to simplify those often complicated financial aid letters that are sent to students, so that it’s easier to understand exactly how much aid is available through grants and loans and what the bottom line cost is.

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