The New Jersey Assembly passed a wide-ranging package of bipartisan bills Monday in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak to assist the people, schools, businesses and local governments in the state grappling with the medical and financial impacts of the public health crisis.
The more than two dozen measures, which quickly went through two committees Monday before votes in the full Assembly, target people losing wages as more and more businesses close temporarily and social distancing wipes out commerce, and the closed schools attempting to meet new nutritional and educational demands. Read More from NJ Advance Media for NJ.com.
The state Senate would need to pass the bills and the governor would have to sign them before they became law.
Chair of the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) issued the following statement Monday afternoon:
“I am proud of the work we’ve done today in the Assembly Homeland Security Committee. We acted on over 20 measures to protect residents, small business and local government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I urge all residents to follow closely CDC guidelines and the mandates issued today by the Governor’s office. This is a challenging time for our state and for America. We will get through it.”
The legislation is as follows:
A3095: Aiming to help county clerks handle the significant number of mail-in ballots expected for the 2020 primary election, legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) and John DiMaio (R-Warren) and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-Bergen, Hudson) was approved Monday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, and later by the full Assembly, 65-0. The measure would give county clerks an extra week to proof, print, prepare and send mail-in ballots to voters. The sponsors released the following statement:
“Voting by mail is a great option for many residents, including seniors who may not be able to get to a polling place or college students studying abroad. Voters now also have the option of automatically receiving mail-in ballots for future elections, which will undoubtedly mean more ballots will have to be prepared this year than in past elections. With the threat of COVID-19, it’s imperative we also plan for some people who would normally go to the polls to choose to vote by mail.
A3813: To allow virtual and remote learning to meet the 180-day instruction requirement for school districts in case of extended emergency school closures, the full Assembly voted 55-0-9 passing legislation on Monday. The bill would apply during a declared state of emergency, public health emergency, or when a directive by the appropriate health agency or officer to close a school is given. It also makes further provisions during a public health emergency for approved private schools for students with disabilities.
Aiming to help county clerks handle the significant number of mail-in ballots expected for the 2020 primary election, legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) and John DiMaio (R-Warren) and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-Bergen, Hudson) was approved Monday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, and later by the full Assembly, 65-0.
A3839 and A3856: Aiming to help schools and healthcare facilities meet increased sanitization needs during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee and the full Assembly passed two measures on Monday.
The first bill (A3839), sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Carter (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Morris, Somerset, Union) and Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson) would make a supplemental appropriation of up to $20 million from the General Fund to the Department of Education. The funds would be dispersed to public, charter and private schools that apply for aid to cover cleaning supplies and increased personnel costs. The bill passed the Assembly 65-0.
Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth) and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic) sponsor the second measure (A3856), which would make a supplemental appropriation of $10 million from the General Fund to assist certain healthcare and residential facilities with increased cleaning and sanitization during the outbreak. Facilities eligible for the grant include nursing homes, homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, urgent care, retirement centers and state psychiatric hospitals. The Assembly voted in favor, 65-0.
A3840: To aid New Jersey school districts in feeding children enrolled in free or reduced-price school lunch and breakfast programs during extended school closures for COVID-19, the Assembly advanced a bipartisan measure 65-0 on Monday.
Will give direction to school districts on the provision of school meals to be distributed to students at local centers in the event the New Jersey Department of Health or health officer of the jurisdiction orders a school to close. Schools unable to provide meals would be required to establish a food voucher system to ensure that all children continue to have access to proper nutrition. Bipartisan sponsors, Assembly members Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington), Aura Dunn (R-Morris, Somerset) and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union), issued the following joint statement:
“Hundreds of thousands of students across New Jersey rely on the breakfast and lunch they get at school during the week. However, with schools instituting closures and at-home instruction to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, there lies significant uncertainty on how these children will and can continue to be fed.
A3841: Taking action to give New Jersey taxpayers and businesses a reprieve on their tax deadlines in light of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the General Assembly passed bipartisan-sponsored legislative package on Monday.
Will automatically extending the time to file a gross income tax or corporation business tax return if the federal government extends the filing or payment due date for federal returns. The sponsors of the bill, Assembly members Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex) and Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson) issued the following statement:
“We must take proactive steps to protect New Jersey’s economy. We are all uncertain of what to expect over the next few months and New Jersey residents need our support right now. Allowing more time to file can help many of those who need to go into a tax service in person, as well as giving flexibility to owners who may face some disruption in their businesses. Together, we can navigate our way through the Covid-19 pandemic. We will do it by working collaboratively, showing compassion, and preparing as best we can for unexpected challenges our residents may find themselves facing during this time.”
A3842: To address the obstacles faced by students without computers or internet capabilities and bridge the ‘digital divide’ in student access to technology, the Assembly advanced a measure 59-3-3 on Monday to establish the “Bridging the Digital Divide in Schools Grant Program” in the Department of Education. Under the bill, funds would be allocated to provide or expand access to laptops, tablets, hot spot devices and other technology for students to use in both a school setting or at home.
Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington), Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem) and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union), sponsors of the bill, issued the following joint statement:
“We need to ensure every child has access to the tools their peers have to make way for equitable learning opportunities and outcomes. In a time when schools are moving to distance learning due to COVID-19, the inequities in technology access and associated challenges have become even more pronounced. . .It is estimated that roughly 12 percent of New Jersey’s 3.2 million households are without a computer and that 18 percent don’t have high-speed internet access. This bill would help ensure no student or schools falls on the wrong side of the digital divide whether we’re in a state of emergency or not.”
A3843: To ensure that no New Jerseyan feels the need to delay diagnostic testing for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as order by their doctor, the Assembly voted 64-0-1 on Monday passing a measure to require health carriers and insurance plans, including Medicaid, to provide coverage for testing with no cost-sharing obligations. The bill would also require coverage of telemedicine and telehealth services for the period of the emergency declared under Executive Order 103 of 2020.
Bipartisan sponsors of the bill, Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris), Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Morris, Somerset, Union) and Annette Chaparro (D-Hudson), released the following joint statement:
“We need to be doing everything to protect public health and safety. There is a lot we cannot confirm about the trajectory of COVID-19, but increasing the accessibility of testing is the most critical first step. People should not be feeling the need to avoid medical care in New Jersey for fear of what it could cost them. . .Encouraged by the insurers already waiving co-pays for coronavirus testing, it’s imperative that every single New Jersey resident is afforded the same, equal access regardless of their insurance provider or plan.”
A3844: Concerns business interruption insurance during coronavirus disease 2019 state of emergency.
A3845: Helping small businesses meet their financial obligations as New Jersey works to mitigate the spread of Covid19, legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Roy Freiman (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex and Hunterdon), Louis Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington) and Ron Dancer (R-Ocean) to ensure loan availability was approved during a special session by the full Assembly on Monday, 65-0.
Under the measure the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (authority) is authorized to provide grants during periods of emergency declared by the Governor, such as the declaration regarding the Coronavirus disease 2019, and for the duration of economic disruptions due to the emergency, such as Covid19 2019. Assembly members Freiman, Greenwald & Dancer issued the following statement:
“As we work to protect residents from the Covid19 virus influence on our state, we have to think about the small business community, who rely on their customers to frequent their stores. These businesses will be adversely affected by the need for many to stay indoors and potential quarantines. Providing access to loans will give small businesses an additional resource they can use to maintain their operations and pay their employees as we get through the days ahead.”
A3846: Aiming to assist workers who do not have access to paid leave during the COVID-19 outbreak, legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic), Annette Chaparro (D-Hudson) and Annette Quijano (D-Union) to create the Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program was approved Monday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee and later by the full Assembly, 65-0.
The fund established under the measure would allow workers who need to be absent from work due to COVID-19 to recoup lost wages. Eligible workers include those who are diagnosed with novel coronavirus; need to take care of an ill family member; need to stay home to care for children due to school or childcare facility closures; or any other purpose determined by the Commissioner of Labor. Workers would receive equivalent compensation to their normal wages. Assemblywomen Sumter, Chaparro and Quijano released the following statement:
“For hourly workers who do not have paid leave benefits or the option of working from home, missing work means missing pay. Many people are burdened with the choice of going to work when they don’t feel well, rather than lose out on wages needed to pay the rent or buy groceries. We would never want someone with COVID-19 to feel like they need to go to work because they have no other options, and therefore risk the health of themselves and others.
“With this legislation, they will have another option. No one deserves to lose income because they or their family has been impacted by novel coronavirus.”
A3847: Paid leave without utilizing accumulated leave for local government employees under certain circumstances.
A3848: Concerns time off from work in connection with infectious disease.
A3849: Sponsored by Assembly members Gordon Johnson, Bill Moen and Britnee Timberlake would modifies OPRA deadlines in the event of a public emergency to require instead that a records custodian make a reasonable effort to respond within seven business days, as circumstances permit was also approved 65-0. Currently, OPRA requires compliance within seven days, provided that the record is easily accessible and not archived or in storage.
A3850: The Assembly voted 64-0 on Monday advancing a bill to allow a public body – as defined under the “Senator Byron M. Baer Open Public Meetings Act” – to provide notice of and conduct a meetings and public business by electronic means during a state of emergency, public health emergency, or state of local disaster emergency. The legislation further requires that public business conducted by such means be limited to matters necessary for the continuing operation of government and applicable declarations of emergency.
Bipartisan sponsors, Assembly members Carol Murphy (D-Burlington), BettyLou DeCroce (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) and Bill Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester), issued the following joint statement:
“Government must continue to function all the way down to the very local levels. However, in times of emergency, in-person meetings may be impractical and can be a public health risk. To ensure the safety of the public and staff as well as preserve transparency, agencies should be able to conduct public business by electronic means. Having a provision to allow for this is just smart policy, and today, with increasing need to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, it would serve every community well.”
A3851: Sponsored by Assemblymen Gary Schaer, Gerry Scharfenberger and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson that would expand the current authority of the Director of the Division of Local Government Services, in the Department of Community Affairs, to extend the statutory dates for the introduction and approval, and for the adoption, of county and municipal budgets when the Governor has declared a Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency passed the Assembly 65-0.
A3854: Aiming to advance the testing of residents for Covid-19 in New Jersey, the General Assembly acted on a measure Monday that would authorize all licensed health care facilities and laboratories to collect specimens to test for COVID-19; allows waiver of staffing ratio requirements.
The bipartisan sponsored bill was approved 65-0.
The sponsors, Assemblyman Herb Conaway, M.D. (D-Burlington), Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R.N. (R-Morris, Somerset, Union) issued the following statements on their bill:
“Increased testing is critical to gauging the spread of Covid19 in New Jersey,” said Conaway. “We need more tests available help residents and identify patients. We are in unprecedented times. We need to act swiftly to reduce the transfer of the virus and the effects of it our communities.”
A3855: Before the outbreak of COVID-19, an estimated 11 percent of American households were considered food insecure because they did not have consistent access to sufficient food. Food insecurity will likely escalate during the pandemic if workers are forced to take time off from work or lose pay. To help reduce hunger during this public health crisis, a measure passed the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee and the full Assembly on Monday.
The measure was approved by the Assembly 65-0. It would require information on food access programs and resources to be prominently displayed on the main website of the State’s 2-1-1 system. The information would also be disseminating on social media and other appropriate measures. The bill is sponsored by Assemblywomen Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester), Jean Stanfield (R-Atlantic, Burlington, Camden) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
A3857: Supplements the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations act by appropriating $15 million for Food Bank Aid directed to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, South Jersey Food Bank and Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean County New Jersey to provide assistance to homes in need. Sponsors Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), Assemblywomen Annette Quijano and Shanique Speight.issued the following statement today:
“Families who were fighting hunger before the Covid-19 pandemic will need us more now. This legislation will double our efforts to support our food pantries on the frontlines of hunger.
“3 in 10 children in New Jersey receive either a reduced lunch or a free lunch each day. For a few, their school lunch may be there only balanced meal they have daily. We must consider statewide concerns like these as we plan our defense against Covid-19.”
A3858: Passed in Assembly 52-1-12. Sponsored by Mukherji-Requires Commissioner of Human Services to issue supplemental cash assistance payments to recipients of certain public assistance programs under certain circumstances; makes appropriation.
A3859: Helping families stay in their homes during times of crisis such as the current public health emergency, the General Assembly acted on a measure prohibiting residential tenant eviction and eviction due to residential foreclosure during certain emergency circumstances was approved 60-0-5.
The bill would provide that, whenever a public health emergency or State of Emergency, or both the Governor may issue an executive order to declare that a lessee, tenant, homeowner or any other person would not be removed from a residential property as the result of an eviction or foreclosure proceeding. The executive order would remain in effect for no longer than two months following the end of the Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency.
Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic) issued the following statements on the bill:
“It is unsettling to think a family could be evicted or asked to leave their home due to foreclosure proceedings at this time. We must do everything we can to keep families safe and in a home until we get to the other side of this public health crisis. We will get through this New Jersey.”
A3860: To help deliver health care services and clinical information to patients remotely using digital health tools during the current COVID-19 public health emergency, the full Assembly approved a measure 64-0-0 on Monday. The bill seeks to ensure that clinical services over the internet or using wireless, satellite or telephone communications equipment are available to residents, regardless of an existing provider-patient relationship, by authorizing health care providers to administer telemedicine and telehealth services in times of public health emergency.
Bipartisan sponsors of the bill, Assembly members Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), BettyLou DeCroce (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) and Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), issued the following joint statement:
“The steady spread of the coronavirus threatens the viability of health-care delivery in New Jersey and across the country. This bill would ensure that health care providers are able to continue tending to patients from the safety of their homes to protect both the public and, even more critically, front-line health workers. Widespread access to telemedicine and telehealth services will also provide concerned citizens with access to reliable medical information and allow them to obtain needed services remotely as hospitals and urgent care centers deal with increasing caseloads. As we continue to promote the necessity of social distancing, we must take steps to ensure that everyone – including those with chronic health conditions – is able to safely the access the care they need.”
A3861: Permits corporations to hold shareholders’ meetings in part or solely by means of remote communication during state of emergency.
A3862: Permits professional and occupational licensing boards to expedite licensure of certain individuals during state of emergency or public health emergency.
A3863: Passed full Assembly in response to major disruptions to everyday operations throughout the state that will take place beginning today as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under normal circumstances, candidates must submit their petitions to the state with all required signatures 64 days before the upcoming election, which would be March 30, 2020. However, the bill makes an exception for this year’s candidates by allowing the petition to be submitted with just one signature by March 30, as long as the remaining required signatures are submitted by 8 a.m. on April 13 – 50 days before the primary election in June.
ACR165: Urges DHS to apply for federal waivers to facilitate and increase access to SNAP benefits during coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak.
AJR158: Helping ensure those affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency can effectively practice social distancing, the full Assembly passed a bipartisan measure 63-0 on Monday. The joint resolution sponsored by Assembly members Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex), Christopher DePhillips (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), calls upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take temporary measures to secure broadband access.
The bill’s sponsors released the following joint statement:
“As the number of school and business closures increase in order to have their students or employees work from home to mitigate COVID-19, the need for a fast and reliable internet connection has grown significantly. For those in self-quarantine, internet access is also vital to remain in communication with doctors via telemedicine services. And so, FCC action to alleviate accessibility issues, especially for residents living in rural and low-income areas with limited connectivity, is of utmost importance.”
To allow virtual and remote learning to meet the 180-day instruction requirement for school districts in case of extended emergency school closures, the full Assembly voted 55-0-9 passing legislation on Monday.