Atlantic, Cape May County officials working to get ahead of potential layoffs

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ATLANTIC CITY – The economic effect of thousands of people out of work due to potential casino closings was the focus of a forum Thursday, July 24 that brought elected officials together from Atlantic and Cape May counties.

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the purpose of the meeting was to get everyone on the same page and give them the most up-to-date information on what state and county governments can do to mitigate the economic impact of up to 6,500 casino employees out of work by the fall. The discussion included community needs that could arise as well.

While what lies ahead may be the biggest economic challenge Atlantic County has ever faced, Levinson said, it is one that can be addressed if all elected officials work together.

Atlantic City and the region are not alone in facing an economic downturn.

Levinson said other areas of the country have had to contend with massive layoffs and found ways to minimize the economic hardship on the furloughed workers and their families.

He called 6,500 layoffs a worst-case scenario and expressed optimism that plans to keep Revel open will bear fruit and that adaptive reuses for Trump Plaza and Showboat can be found.

“Make no doubt about it, the challenges that we confront right now are significant and will definitely impose a hardship on workers and their families,” Levinson said. “The decisions we make as community leaders in the coming year will be the most critical ones we will ever make and will determine our economic future.”

He called the layoffs part of an adjustment in the casino gaming market and reminded elected officials that it is not all doom and gloom because in the end there are still several economically strong casinos generating $2.5 billion annually.

Levinson urged his fellow lawmakers to see job creation as the focal point.

“We are working closely with Stockton to get a full campus in Atlantic City; this project could bring 4,000 students to the city,” he said. “We have to diversify our economy and think regionally instead of just locally. We have to build on assets such as the FAA Tech Center, Stockton, health care and the airport. The responsibility to make this not just happen but to happen right is ours and ours alone. The state will share the benefits if we do things right, and we alone will bear the costs if we do not.”

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo weighed in on unemployment benefits Thursday, and is urging the federal legislators Frank LoBiondo, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker to move forward with legislation to extend unemployment benefits.

“This month 1,600 former Atlantic Club casino workers are nearing the expiration of their 26-week unemployment benefits,” Mazzeo said. “Without action from the Congress these dedicated and hardworking employees will be left without the means to provide for their families. We must act to protect all those who have given their lives to contribute to Atlantic City’s economy for the last 30-plus years.”

In separate action, Assemblyman Chris Brown was trying to spearhead a bipartisan agreement to focus on jobs and the economy.

He spoke Monday at the Steel Pier with Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, Levinson, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Steel Pier owner Anthony Catanoso.

Brown is working to gain bipartisan support from local elected officials throughout the county to pass resolutions in support of giving Atlantic City time to transition into a destination resort and for the state to honor the five-year window that was promised to turn the city into a destination resort.

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