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What a difference a year makes.

This time last year we were talking about how Monmouth County saw record beach badge revenue numbers in 2019 at $23.7-million.

Flash forward a year later through the pandemic and all the restrictions in place and keeping in mind the fact that many beaches and boardwalks across the Jersey Shore weren't open for Memorial Day weekend in 2020, you'd be surprised to learn that Monmouth County actually exceeded last year's beach revenue total and there's a couple reasons why.

From the time the pandemic hit to the ensuing restrictions being put in place by the state, the Freeholders were planning ahead for the eventual reopening of the beaches, boardwalks and local economy.

The Freeholders worked with other county officials and local leaders starting in April to make the most of the summer season.

"We met every week through phone calls with all of our mayors, we put a plan together, we tried to be cohesive throughout the whole county on all of our beaches because we had a lot of obstacles...road obstacles, boardwalk obstacles, sand obstacles and lifeguard obstacles," Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone said.

Thanks to Federal CARES Act funding, they were able to soften some of the burden from those obstacles.

"We made sure that our municipalities and their expenses were addressed and we're still continuing to do that," Arnone said. "We took those dollars and any expenses to make sure that they did things safely and we made sure that we would reimburse them."

That led to another record breaking summer for beach revenue but it was also a summer that presented a series of challenges leading to the creation of the 'Know Before You Go' initiative to let residents and tourists know essential information such as what beaches were open at a given point of the day and what parking was available.

"Know Before You Go and if our beaches are closed, they're closed, we had to do that at that time to keep people safe," Arnone said.

While beach revenue was up this year, the forecast for tourism spending from this summer due to the pandemic isn't looking good with those numbers still being tallied.

Throughout the summer, the Freeholders sought to help businesses and restaurants stay afloat during a period of limited indoor and outdoor dining, by providing CARES Act funding.

"We were able to help and assist them in funding with our CARES Act and to date we've given out $15-million to our community businesses," Arnone said.

The silver lining from the Summer season was that it was another record year for beach badge revenue and that's thanks in part to the residents in Monmouth County.

"If you look at the travel agencies and air flights, obviously, they're way, way down so we probably benefitted from that, benefitted from good weather, having responsible government here, having beaches that were well maintained and kept very safe," Arnone said. "People would come there and say 'hey, this is safe' and then they would go to restaurants because they were doing the right thing and keeping people safe. I think that's a big part of our revenue and our numbers went up."

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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