29 measures & $65M for NJ schools, business, kids during coronavirus
The state Assembly passed 29 bills Monday in an emergency session organized to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
More than $65 million in spending is authorized by the bills, to help pay for lost wages, support food banks and cleaning of schools and health-care and residential facilities. One makes an open-ended appropriation for supplemental cash payments to people covered by the state's welfare program, Work First New Jersey.
“I don’t think any of us, anybody can truly tell you what the arc of this is going to be,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex. "What we do know that we need to spend is that we have to have people be assured that they have the wherewithal to continue to live their lives. We want people to do what they should be doing, meaning that if they’re sick, stay home.”
One bill would extend New Jersey's tax filing deadline, if the federal government does the same. Another would ban food retailers from accepting returns of groceries until a month after the state of emergency is lifted, for fear of the virus contaminating their surfaces. Yet another temporarily prevents people from being removed from their residences through evictions and foreclosures.
“This bill is near and dear because we will definitely be able to help residents stay in their home or not be evicted during this pandemic," said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-Hudson.
The session appears to be the Assembly’s last in the Statehouse for the foreseeable future. Its budget hearings in April and May might be conducted by teleconference, and one of the bills acted on would let the Legislature conduct business at locations other than Trenton, even electronically, during an emergency.
The Senate’s plans remain in flux. Its final voting session before an extended break had been scheduled for next Thursday, then moved to next Monday, and is now scheduled for this Thursday, March 19, after a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
Sixty-five of the Assembly’s 80 members attended Monday’s session. Twenty-one bills passed without opposition. One bill, A3844, which would require business interruption insurance policies to cover losses caused by the pandemic at businesses with less than 100 workers in New Jersey, was listed for a vote but held.
Assemblyman Ron Dancer was among those opposed, concerned it would lead to higher premiums. He suggested the state should also provide subsidies to cover such increases.
“There’s no free lunch here," Dancer said. "And I understand that this is an emergent time, but we need to protect businesses, residents and the consumers of insurance policies.”
Below is a list of all the bills that were passed. They include links to the text of the legislation, most of which wasn’t available on the Legislature’s website until after the time they were passed:
- A3095 Provides county clerks with additional week to mail ballots for 2020 primary election. Passed 65-0. (Monday's amendments.)
- A3813 Permits use of virtual or remote instruction to meet minimum 180-day school year requirement under certain circumstances. Passed 56-0-8.
- A3839 Makes supplemental appropriation of up to $20 million from General Fund to DOE to support school facility cleaning and sanitization. Passed 65-0.
- A3840 Requires school districts to provide school meals or meal vouchers to students eligible for free and reduced price school meals during school closures due to COVID-19 epidemic. Passed 65-0.
- A3841 Automatically extends time to file gross income tax or corporation business tax return if federal government extends filing or payment due date for federal returns. Passed 65-0.
- A3842 Establishes Bridging the Digital Divide in Schools Grant Program in DOE to provide and expand access to technology and equipment for students in certain school districts. Passed 58-4-3.
- A3843 Requires health insurance and Medicaid coverage for testing of coronavirus disease 2019 and for telemedicine and telehealth during coronavirus disease 2019 state of emergency. Passed 64-0-1.
- A3845 Authorizes EDA to make grants during periods of emergency declared by Governor and for duration of economic disruptions due to emergency; allows EDA to grant certain business documentation submission deadline extensions. Passed 65-0.
- A3846 Creates "Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program;" allows persons to claim for lost wages due to coronavirus disease 2019, and employers to pay wages to workers ordered under quarantine by licensed healthcare practitioner; appropriates $20,000,000. Passed 65-0.
- A3847 Provides paid leave without utilizing accumulated leave time for local government employees under certain circumstances. Passed 56-4-5.
- A3848 Concerns time off from work in connection with infectious disease. Passed 65-0.
- A3849 Modifies deadline by which public agency is required to respond to request for government record during period of emergency. Passed 65-0.
- A3850 Allows public bodies to conduct meetings, and provide notice, by electronic means during periods of emergency. Passed 64-0.
- A3851 Permits extension of deadlines for adoption of county and municipal budgets under certain circumstances. Passed 65-0.
- A3852 Allows conduct of State business and legislative sessions at locations other than Trenton during periods of emergency or other exigency; allows conduct of legislative business using electronic means. Passed 65-0.
- A3854 Authorizes all licensed health care facilities and laboratories to collect specimens to test for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); allows waiver of staffing ratio requirements. Passed 65-0.
- A3855 Requires food access information be displayed on websites of 2-1-1 system and executive branch departments during public health emergencies to the extent practicable. Passed 65-0.
- A3856 Makes FY 2020 supplemental appropriation of $10 million for healthcare and residential facility sanitation due to coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak. Passed 65-0.
- A3857 Makes FY 2020 supplemental appropriations of $15 million for grants to food banks. Passed 65-0.
- A3858 Requires Commissioner of Human Services to issue supplemental cash assistance payments to Work First New Jersey recipients under certain circumstances; makes appropriation. Passed 52-1-12.
- A3859 Concerns prohibition of residential tenant eviction and eviction due to residential foreclosure during certain emergency circumstances. Passed 60-0-5.
- A3860 Establishes certain requirements to use telemedicine and telehealth to respond to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Passed 64-0.
- A3861 Permits corporations to hold shareholders' meetings in part or solely by means of remote communication during state of emergency. Passed 64-0.
- A3862 Permits professional and occupational licensing boards to expedite licensure of certain individuals during state of emergency or public health emergency. Passed 65-0.
- A3863 Extends petition filing deadline by two weeks for all candidates, and waives signature requirements for candidates for party office, for 2020 primary election. Passed 65-0.
- A3864 Authorizes notaries public to perform certain notarial acts remotely. Passed 63-0-2.
- A3865 Limits return of items purchased from retail food stores under certain circumstances. Passed 49-4-12.
- ACR165 Urges DHS to apply for federal waivers to facilitate and increase access to SNAP benefits during coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak. Passed 65-0.
- AJR158 Urges FCC to take temporary measures to secure broadband access for those affected by COVID-19. Passed 63-0.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at email@example.com.