Burlington County leaders detail county’s pandemic response during State of the County event

Burlington County’s continuing commitment to help residents and small businesses throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was the focus of this year’s Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce State of the County event.

Held virtually via Zoom on Oct. 6, the webinar featured a county update address from Burlington County Board Director Felicia Hopson, as well as a summary of the county’s small business assistance programs by Deputy Director Tom Pullion, liaison to the Department of Economic Development, according to information provided by the county.

Hopson told the assembled business leaders on the teleconference that responding to the pandemic and its impacts remains the primary focus of the county’s government.

“2020 has been full of challenges. The coronavirus pandemic not only turned all our lives upside down, it forced us to rethink how our government delivers services and how we can support our residents during this critical time when they need us the most,” Hopson said, according to the statement. “We’ve responded to what is clearly the greatest health crisis of the last century.

Among the county initiatives Hopson highlighted were the county’s COVID-19 testing program. More than 8,000 county residents and workers have been tested through the county program so far and it was just expanded to include home testing and a new fixed walk-up testing site on the campus of Rowan College at Burlington County in Mount Laurel, according to the statement.

“Burlington County was one of the very first counties to launch a free testing program for our residents, medical staff and first responders. We delivered potentially lifesaving protective equipment and supplies to both our first responders and our long-term care facilities whose residents are so vulnerable to this dreaded disease,” Hopson said, according to the statement. “Just yesterday we expanded our COVID-19 testing program to offer at-home testing for any Burlington County resident, student or worker employed in the county. By going online they’ll be able to register for a saliva test kit to be sent to their home with instructions on how to take and return a saliva sample for testing.”

The county has also distributed over a million pieces of protective equipment to first responders and long-term care facilities in the county and given out more than $100,000 in fresh produce and other groceries to families in need, according to the statement.

To assist small businesses, the county has launched its new Health Emergency Loan Program (HELP), which will extend up to $50,000 in zero-interest financing to any business operating in the county for business-related purchases, expenses, renovations, or improvements.

“These loans can provide a lifeline for our county’s businesses and a springboard for their recovery. The more assistance we can provide our small businesses the better off we’ll all be,” Pullion said, according to the statement.

During the webinar, participants also received an update from Burlington County Clerk Joanne Schwartz about the upcoming November General Election, which is being conducted primarily with Vote-by-Mail ballots.

More than 315,000 ballots were mailed out to voters during the last week, according to Schwartz, who urged voters to be on the lookout for their ballot and to take advantage of the different ways to return their completed ballots, including the U.S. Postal Service, secure drop boxes and by hand-delivering them to the Board of Elections Office in Mount Holly or to their assigned polling location on Election Day, according to the staement.

“This is an election like no other,” Schwartz said.

A replay of the full program is available online at https://vimeo.com/465424083

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